Kenya: 'Vaccine Apartheid Could Affect Uptake of Covishield'

Covid-19 vaccine at the Aspen Pharmacare sterile manufacturing facility at Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape in South Africa (file photo).

Denying individuals who have been vaccinated by Covishield the chance to travel to certain countries undermines the confidence in life saving vaccines, says the government of Kenya while responding to complaints by travellers that many European Union member had rejected both the negative test and proof of full vaccination.

Kenya's Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe warned that distrusting vaccines that have already been shown to be safe and effective by the World Health Organization (WHO) risks putting billions of lives at risk.

Effect on uptake

"When you reject the visa application of those vaccinated by a certain vaccine type that is considered safe, are you telling them that the vaccine is unsafe?" Mr Kagwe said.

This, he said, will affect the uptake of the vaccine in the said countries.

His sentiments were followed by a statement from the Covax facility urging all global regional and national government authorities to recognise everyone who has received Covid-19 vaccines authorised by the WHO as fully vaccinated when making decisions on who is able to travel or attend events.

"Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the re-opening of travel into and within that region would effectively create a two-tier system," says the statement.

Though Covishield provides the expected defences against the virus, and is currently being administered in Kenya and most African countries, the EU Commission does not recognise it.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is responsible for the evaluation and supervision of medicinal products, has approved only four Covid-19 vaccines so far: Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech), Moderna, Vaxzervria (AstraZeneca), Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).

However, Covishield, the Indian version of AstraZeneca and University of Oxford's Covid vaccine, is yet to be recognised by the agency though the WHO has endorsed it for emergency use across the world.

The European Union recently issued guidelines regarding the applicability of the EU Digital Covid Certificate "Green Pass" to different Covid-19 vaccines which would facilitate free and safe movement across all EU member states and associated countries.

The EU Digital Covid certificate or 'Green Pass' will be mandatory to travel to European countries and the document will serve as proof that a person is vaccinated against Covid-19.

The "Green Pass" came to effect on July 1 with an aim to facilitate free movement during the Covid-19 pandemic.

India has already asked the EU member countries to individually consider allowing Indians who have taken Covishield and Covaxin vaccines and want to travel to Europe.

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