A day after controversy erupted, the United Kingdom on Wednesday, 22 September, updated its travel guidelines to include Serum Institute of India (SII)-manufactured Covishield in its list of recognised vaccines.
"Formulations of the four listed vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Modern Takeda, qualify as approved vaccines," the updated UK guidelines said.
However, India does not feature in a list of countries mentioned by the UK where vaccination from the relevant public health body would count as an individual being vaccinated.
What does this mean? What do the new rules say? How does it affect Indians? Here's all you need to know.
Who is considered fully vaccinated?
From 4 October, you will qualify as fully vaccinated if you are vaccinated either:
Under an approved vaccination programme in the UK, Europe, USA or UK vaccine programme overseas
With a full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan or the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Formulations of the four listed vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda, also qualify as approved vaccines.
If Covishield is recognised by the UK why is India not in the list?
No official reason has been given so far. However, the UK High Commission on Tuesday, 21 September, asserted that their government is "working with India to expand recognition of vaccine certification".
This indicates that there is an issue with recognising the Co-WIN vaccine certificates issued by India.
However, National Health Authority CEO RS Sharma told NDTV that the certificate system is WHO-compliant.
"There are no issues on CoWin with certification... system is entirely WHO compliant. We continue to have discussions with International Civil Aviation Organisation. The UK High Commissioner visited me on 2 September. They wanted to understand the system... technical aspects," Dr Sharma told NDTV.
What has the UK said about this?
"We’re clear Covishield is not a problem. The UK is open to travel and we’re already seeing a lot of people going from India to the UK, be it tourists, business people or students," British High Commissioner to India Alex Ellis was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
"We've been having detailed technical discussions regarding certification, with the builders of CoWIN app and NHS app, about both apps. They’re happening at a rapid pace, to ensure that both countries mutually recognise the vaccine certificates issued by each other," Ellis stated.
What does this imply?
The implication is that Indians who have received Covishield will still be considered 'unvaccinated' and will have to undergo a '10-day self-isolation'.
They would also need to take a pre-travel COVID-19 test and another upon arrival in the country.
What is the criteria for recognising COVID-19 vaccine certificates in the UK?
You must be able to prove that you have been fully vaccinated (+14 days) with a document (digital or paper-based) from a national or state-level public health body that includes, as a minimum:
Forename and surname(s)
Date of birth
Vaccine brand and manufacturer
Date of vaccination for every dose
Country or territory of vaccination and/or certificate issuer
"If your document from a public health body does not include all of these, you must follow the non-vaccinated rules," their official statement reads.
The certificate generated on Co-WIN does not mention the date of birth. Again, The Quint reiterates that no official reason has been given for not recognising Indians administered with double dose of Covishield as 'vaccinated'.
What are the travel protocols if a person is considered fully vaccinated?
If you qualify as fully vaccinated, you will:
Complete your passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in England.
Pay, book and take a COVID-19 test on or before day two after you arrive in England.
. Read more on COVID-19 by The Quint.IPL 2021: Delhi Bowlers Restrict Hyderabad to 134/9UK Now Recognises Covishield, but Indians Must Quarantine: What Does This Mean? . Read more on COVID-19 by The Quint.