The Astra-Zenica jabs

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Yesterday I suggested that overseas travel might depend on having been fully vaccinated.

You can see whether you have had the Indian version by looking at the batch numbers on the reverse side of your card. The Indian batch numbers are 4120Z001 , 4120Z002 and 4120Z003.

The fly in the ointment is that there is not unanimity between nations on what vaccines to accept and even where there may be acceptance, there is hesitancy in whether a vaccine manufactured in one place is the same as the same vaccine manufactured in another.

In particular this hits Astra-Zenica vaccine, a vaccine which is cheaper than most drugs and therefore the one that is likely to be more widely used.

If manufactured in Europe, the Astra-Zenica vaccine has been authorised for use by the EU. But if manufactured by the Serum Institute in India (incidentally the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world and called Covishield) then the EU has not authorised it for use.

As many news outlets have pointed out, some five million people in the UK have had the Indian- manufactured version. Is this acceptable for travel by the EU?  

The short answer is no but medical boffins seem to think that it will get authorisation at some stage. But when? That will be crucial for five million people some of whom will certainly want to travel overseas.

Through no fault of their own they may face difficulties travelling.

Greece, Estonia, Slovenia and Spain are among those EU countries that have announced they will recognise the Indian batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine, along with Iceland, which isn’t part of the EU but insists that UK arrivals are fully vaccinated to avoid quarantine. France and Portugal, however, will only accept EU approved vaccines. Malta appears to have made no decision yet.

If they have booked a break and the destination doesn’t accept the Indian produced vaccine what recourse do they have? Will an airline or accommodation provider agree to a refund? No because they can legitimately claim that the destination is open and the FCDO has not advised travelling to it. Can people claim on their travel insurance? That also is unlikely.

So potentially five million people are trapped until the EU sorts itself out and answers the question as to why a vaccine manufactured to the same formula is not acceptable wherever it is made. Especially since the body with which most countries check for advice, the World Health Organization, has approved the Indian manufactured version.

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