Bharat Biotech, the maker of India’s first indigenous vaccine Covaxin, has applied to the World Health Organization for emergency use listing of its vaccine. The company has said the approvals are expected anytime between July and September. The vaccine has already received emergency use authorised in 13 countries, which include Mexico, the Philippines, Iran, Paraguay, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Guyana, Venezuela, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
Why is WHO’s emergency use listing significant?
WHO assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines before including a vaccine on its emergency use list. Only then the vaccine can be considered part of WHO’s COVAX facility. Covishield, the other vaccine of India, has already been listed.
Will WHO listing be considered as a vaccine passport?
As the pandemic is raging in many parts of the world, including India, the international travel ban remains in effect. When the countries begin to reopen, they might insist on a vaccine passport, which is nothing but the certification of vaccination. As WHO’s authorisation attests to a product’s safety and efficacy, country’s may only allow people vaccinated by one of the jabs listed by WHO.
Does this mean people vaccinated with Covaxin won’t be allowed to travel?
No country has yet mandated a vaccine passport yet for international travel. Countries which haven’t banned Indian flights in the wake of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic will allow travellers who have tested negative in RT-PCR tests. It’s not yet known whether countries which have barred Indian travellers will allow only vaccinated travellers.
Lav Agarwal, joint secretary of the union health ministry recently said there has been no consensus on vaccine passport at the WHO level, though a discussion is on. “So far, there’s no consensus at the level of WHO over this. Discussion is still being done if vaccinated people will be allowed. As of now, as per WHO guidelines and guidelines by countries, people with negative Covid test report are being allowed. Relevant action will be taken when a consensus at the world level is reached,” Agarwal said.