U.K. and EU Try to Ease Travel Fears Over India’s Astra Vaccine
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to calm concerns among vaccinated Britons that they won’t be able to travel to the European Union this summer because they received a version of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 shot that was made in India.
The vaccine -- known as Covishield -- isn’t approved by the European Medicines Agency. That has led to some uncertainty about whether recipients will be eligible to travel to the bloc. But the shot is authorized by the World Health Organization, and the European Commission said individual member states can accept those if they want.
The U.K. government is also working with the EU on mutual recognition of vaccinations to allow easier travel.
“I see no reason at all why the MHRA-approved vaccines should not be recognized as part of the vaccine passports,” Johnson said Friday, referring to the U.K. medicines regulator. “I am very confident that that will not prove to be a problem.”
The batches of the Astra vaccine in question were manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. It said this week that it expects European drug regulators will approve Covishield in a few weeks.
Johnson made the comments alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been pushing for the EU to adopt a unified approach on travel from outside the EU. Germany already has a ban on U.K. visitors, classifying the country as a “virus variant area” because of the prevalence in Britain of the highly transmittable delta strain.
Merkel said Germany is continuously reviewing its restrictions and that the rules could change once the U.K. variant classification is lowered.
The delta variant is causing concern across Europe, with Portugal and Spain imposing new restrictions on U.K. visitors in the past week. On Friday, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said it could lead to a rise in coronavirus cases as soon as the summer.
“I sometimes read that there is a risk of a wave of the epidemic linked to this very contagious variant in September, October. I’m not quite sure that we have time to wait,” he said. “I think there’s a possible threat of the epidemic accelerating again in the summer. This is what we’ve seen in the U.K.”
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