I am vaccinated with Oxford-AstraZeneca, however Europe will not let me in: goats and lemonade: NPR
Covishield is the brand name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured at the Indian Serum Institute and administered to millions of people, mainly in low and middle income countries. It’s not on the list of approved vaccines for the European Union – although it is the AstraZeneca version, made in the UK and European locations. Ishara S. Kodikara / AFP via Getty Images Hide caption
Signs S. Kodikara / AFP via Getty Images
Signs S. Kodikara / AFP via Getty Images
I am fully vaccinated. I want to go to Europe. And fully vaccinated visitors are welcome.
But I can’t get in.
That’s because the vaccine I received is not on the European list of the four approved vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca, only the UK or European made version known as Vaxzevria is. The globally more widely used version, made by the Serum Institute of India and known as Covishield, is not on the list of vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency. And that’s the vaccine I got – along with hundreds of millions of other people, mostly in low and middle income countries.
This exclusion is set out in the rules for the COVID Digital Green Pass, which will be introduced on July 1st to make travel easier for vaccinated travelers within Europe. Covishield is not included.
In January I wrote about being invisible in the global COVID-19 vaccine campaign. I was disaffected and didn’t know when I would get my first dose of vaccine because wealthier western nations were buying up most of the vaccines available. Over the same period, Africa, which has a population of more than 1.2 billion, received just 25 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
However, through the COVAX vaccine distribution program, Nigeria received its first batch of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines on March 2. Three weeks later, on March 23rd, I received my first dose. I was excited.
Two months later, on May 25th, I completed my COVID-19 vaccination with dose # 2. I felt on top of the world. I felt ready to travel to any country because I was protected by the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.
I am aware that many Indians who have taken COVISHIELD have problems with traveling to the EU, I assure everyone, I have addressed this at the highest level and I hope to see this matter soon with both regulators and diplomacy with countries.
– Adar Poonawalla (adarpoonawalla) June 28, 2021
In the wake of the Green Pass announcement, outrage about Covishield’s expulsion grows.
The Serum Institute, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, shared this reaction to the Green Pass rules:
But nothing has changed in my situation in the meantime. Once again I feel invisible.
COVID-19 vaccine nationalism has taken on different dimensions, all to the detriment of people from poorer countries. COVAX, the World Health Organization-sponsored vaccine distribution program, has distributed more than 89 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. More than 90% of them are made in India, so none of these people will be able to travel to Europe anytime soon.
Why shouldn’t a vaccine with the same formulation from the same pharmaceutical company receive the same respect just because it is made in India and not in a rich European country?
This news comes at a time when Africa is still in dire need of vaccines. The COVAX system will only be sufficient for just under 20% of Africans. Currently less than 2% of Africans are vaccinated. With the exception of the vaccine donations promised by President Biden, African leaders often come across brick walls when looking for ways to buy more vaccines.
These brick walls are part of a conscious global architecture of injustice, said Strive Masiyiwa (a Zimbabwean billionaire and African Union special envoy on the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team), who spoke at the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit, to pledge global coordination investigate and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. It’s another example of vaccine nationalism described as a catastrophic moral failure by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization.
The effects of the injustice of the COVID Digital Green Pass are far-reaching. As cities reopen around the world, many Africans and others from low- and middle-income countries plan to travel to Europe to attend conferences, visit relatives, go back to school, or just take vacations. These people may have booked their plane tickets, made hotel reservations, or paid school fees. They received their full doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and were confident they were protected from COVID-19 infection. They followed the vaccination guidelines approved by the World Health Organization. They should be celebrated.
Last week, I spoke about the decolonization of global health at a virtual meeting organized by the London International Development Center and four UK universities. After a successful meeting, I began to think that such invitations to speak would soon become personal and that I might have to travel. But if I can’t, will I miss these opportunities and personal contacts?
And what options do I have? Do I and other Serum Institute vaccine recipients now need to take two new doses of other COVID-19 vaccines or the European Union-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine?
Is it even safe for someone to take four doses of the COVID-19 vaccine? Is it right?
My Igbo tribe in Nigeria would push this latest COVID-19 vaccine injustice and denial of entry for fully vaccinated Africans, Indians and others like me as someone and then dictate where the person falls.
I am tired, tired, pained, disappointed, and disappointed with the ongoing inequality that people like me faced during this COVID-19 pandemic. It cannot go on like this any longer. It has to stop.
The European Union needs to revise this new directive. You must consider anyone fully vaccinated with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to be the same. As equals. Period!
Ifeanyi Nsofor is Director of Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch and Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute.