Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Travellers Vaccinated With Russian, Chinese & Indian Vaccines May Be Unable to Enter Majority of EU Countries

The European Union completed all the legislative procedures needed for the EU COVID-19 vaccine passport for travel to become effective, on June 14, when the Presidents of the three main EU institutions – the Parliament, the Commission, and the Council – signed a Regulation on the document at an official signing ceremony.

The EU hopes that the document will help restore the freedom of movement in the block for all those vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), those who have recently recovered from the virus and can prove it, as well as those who test negative.

The EU COVID-19 vaccine passport for travel has ignited the hopes of many that within a short period, they will be able to travel to Europe, with minimal entry measures, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

13 countries are already issuing the passport, two weeks now ahead of the date set for the document to be launched on July 1, including Germany, Greece and Spain.

However, while the document is very promising for a large share of world travellers planning to head to the EU this summer, many may be ineligible to obtain it in spite of being vaccinated.

Only 4 Vaccines Approved by European Medicines Agency

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is the agency of the European Union responsible for the evaluation and supervision of medicinal products, has approved only four Coronavirus vaccines so far, which are:

  • Comirnaty (BioNTech, Pfizer)
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna
  • Vaxzevria (previously COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca)
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)

On the other hand, the following four are currently under rolling review of EMA, but a decision on their approval is yet to be taken:

  • CVnCoV (CureVac)
  • NVX-CoV2373 (Novavax)
  • Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac)
  • COVID-19 Vaccine (Vero Cell) Inactivated (Sinovac)

Yet, according to the EU COVID-19 vaccine passport for travel regulation, the Member States are obliged to issue and accept passports only to those who have been vaccinated with one of the vaccines already approved by the EMA.

It remains up to the governments of the Member States to decide whether they want to accept the vaccines that haven’t been approved yet.

When it comes to waiving free movement restrictions, Member States will have to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines which received EU marketing authorisation. Member States may decide to extend this also to EU travellers that received another vaccine,” a Commission’s factsheet on the document explains.

The same also points out that the Member States can decide by themselves if they accept a vaccination document after one dose or after both doses have been administered.

Majority of EU & Schengen Countries Say ‘No’ to Vaccines That Haven’t Been Approved Yet

Even though they are free to accept certificates on vaccines that haven’t been approved by the EMA yet, the majority of the EU and Schengen Area Member States have already decided not to do so.

Iceland, the first country in Europe to reopen the borders for those vaccinated, has clarified at the very beginning that only those who have been vaccinated with one of the vaccines authorised by the EMA or World Health Organization would benefit from border reopening.

On June 4, the French government unfolded the roadmap strategy for the reopening of the borders for travellers from the EU and Schengen Area Member States, as well as travellers from third countries, noting that the facilitated entry rules for those vaccinated apply only to travellers vaccinated with one of the EMA-approved vaccines, and not others, like the Russian and Indian vaccines.

Lithuania has for some time now made clear its stance that it does not intend to accept the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, and as a result, it will not classify as immunised those who have been vaccinated with it.

They say, Sputnik V is good, but Putin doesn’t care to use it as a cure for the Russian people – he offers it to the world as another hybrid weapon to divide and rule. This is neither new, nor good for mankind,” the Lithuanian Prime Minister had said back at the end of last March.

Other countries have also indicated that they do not intend to accept these vaccines before EMA or WHO approve them.

Greece, Slovenia & Hungary Among the Countries That Will Accept Sputnik V

On May 14, Greece reopened its borders to a wider list of third countries, including Russia. As previously promised, Greece accepted the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine as valid, and those vaccinated with it as eligible to enter the country.

The decision was taken in a bid to further help Greece’s tourism sector recover from the financial loss provoked by the virus, by reopening in time for the summer season.

Slovenia also accepts Sputnik V, as well as the Chinese Coronavirus vaccines, the Sinopharm and the Sinovac/CoronaVac. The former Yugoslav country now permits travellers vaccinated with these vaccines as well as the vaccines approved by EMA, to enter its territory restriction-free, including for tourism purposes.

Hungary, which is the world country with most vaccines approved, accepts not only Sputnik V and the Chinese Sinopharm, but also the Covishield of the Serum Institute of India, as well as the Convidecia vaccine by CanSinoBIO, also a Chinese vaccine.

The country has already conducted bilateral agreement with several countries worldwide for accepting COVID-19 certificates, including for vaccines that have not been approved by EMA.

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