Last week, WTTC issued a warning stating the potential damaging effects of countries not coming together to create a common list of internationally recognized and approved inoculations. Its warning came just days after British travelers were denied entry into Malta for having received India’s Covishield batch of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The failure of countries to agree on a common list of all approved and recognized vaccines is of huge concern to WTTC, as we know every day travel is curbed, more cash-strapped travel and tourism businesses face even greater strain, pushing ever more to the brink of bankruptcy,” said Virginia Messina, senior vice president of WTTC, in a statement. “We can avoid [these issues] by having a fully recognized list of all the approved vaccines — and vaccine batches — which should be the key to unlocking international travel, not the door to preventing it.”
While the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in Europe has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the same shot produced at an Indian factory is not recognized on the continent. According to the Associated Press, EU regulators say this discrepancy is the result of AstraZeneca not completing the necessary paperwork on the Indian factory, which would provide details on its production practices and quality control standards. Others believe the EU is being discriminatory, considering that the World Health Organization (WHO) has inspected and approved the Indian facilities.
As of press time, the EMA has only approved vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and the European-manufactured version of AstraZeneca. Beyond the Indian-made shots of AstraZeneca, EMA has also not given its seal of approval to other vaccines made in developing nations, as well as those from China and Russia.
Vaccine approval is just one puzzle piece in the already complex world of navigating COVID-19 travel restrictions and requirements. Just last week, several cruise lines updated their health and safety protocols to exclude those who have received mixed vaccination shots.