Boris Johnson has said he is “very confident” there “will not prove to be a problem” for travellers who have received an Indian-made Covid jab.
It comes after reports the European Union’s passport scheme does not recognise doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine branded as Covishield in India.
The UK’s medicines regulator has shared its data on the jab with its European counterpart, Downing Street said.
Vaccine expert Prof Adam Finn said the vaccines were “exactly the same stuff”.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that millions of people who have received doses from batches manufactured in India could face being blocked from taking European holidays due to the Covishield vaccine not being authorised by Europe’s regulator, and therefore not recognised by the EU.
Currently the EU is rolling out a Digital Covid Certificate so travellers can prove their vaccination status in order to be exempt from quarantining when crossing an international border.
A European Commission spokesman said that while entry to the EU should be allowed to those who are fully vaccinated with EU authorised jabs, member states could make their own decision on whether to allow entry for people vaccinated with jabs on the World Health Organization’s emergency list – which includes Covishield
Several European countries have already approved the Covishield jab for travel. These include Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Iceland and Switzerland.
At the moment the EU does not accept the UK’s NHS app for Covid certification but a UK government spokesman said it will be “a key service” as international travel is reopened.
Individual countries including Greece and Spain do accept it.
Downing Street said the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had shared its assessment of the vaccines with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to assist the approvals process.
During a press conference with German Chancellor Angel Merkel, the UK prime minister said he saw “no reason at all” why MHRA-approved vaccines should not be used for vaccine passports.
Mrs Merkel said that “in the foreseeable future” those with double jabs in high incidence areas, like Britain, “will be able to travel again without having to go into quarantine”.
How do I know if I have had the Covishield jab?
If you were told you were having an AstraZeneca vaccine it is possible you may have received one of five million Covishield-branded doses shipped to the UK.
An amendment was made to the agreement between AstraZeneca and the MHRA (the UK regulator) listing three batch numbers that were manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and were being “assessed and are treated as Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca”.
These batch numbers are 4120Z001, 4120Z002, and 4120Z003.
A quick way of checking which batch you have had is to look at the paper card you were given after vaccination.
The person who jabbed you should have written the batch numbers in boxes on the back.
You will also see batch numbers listed on NHS Covid Pass letter (England) which shows you are fully vaccinated, and which you will need when travelling abroad to some countries and territories. You can see a digital version of the letter on the NHS App.
Read more here.
The Serum Institute of India is also reportedly seeking emergency authorisation from Europe for the Covishield jab, which has widely been distributed in poorer countries as part of the Covavax scheme.
AstraZeneca also says it is working with the EMA on the “inclusion of Covishield as a recognised vaccine for immunisation passports” – although the EMA says there is currently no application for market authorisation.
Prof Finn, a member of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme people should not be worried that they were any less protected by the Covishield jab and said the “administrative hurdle” should be “straightened out”.
“We’re in the early days of this new world of needed vaccine passports and there are lots of aspects of this that are still being sorted out for the first time,” he said.
“But it’s clearly, ultimately not in anyone’s interest, including the European Union, to create hurdles that don’t need to be there.”
A UK government spokesman said that “all AstraZeneca vaccines given in the UK are the same product and appear on the NHS Covid Pass as Vaxzevria”.
This could mean that officials in the EU would have to check batch numbers to see if they were Covishield or not.