The African Union warned that the EU’s non-recognition of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine produced in India may put people receiving injections in Africa at a disadvantage.
According to new regulations that will take effect on Thursday, the European Union will eliminate the need for isolation and further testing of travelers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
These travelers will receive a digital COVID certificate showing their vaccination status.
But EMA does not currently recognize Covishield, a copy of the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India, which has been widely distributed to African states through the Covax vaccine program.
In a joint statement issued on Monday, the African Union (AU) and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that these regulations “put the fair treatment of people vaccinated in Africa at risk”.
The statement added: “Given that the Covishield vaccine has always been the pillar of the EU-supported Covax contribution to the vaccination program of AU member states, these developments are worrying.”
EMA did not respond to AFP’s request for comment.
However, European Commission spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz said that individual EU governments may decide to allow travellers who have received injections approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), including Covishield, to enter.
Nonetheless, he added that Covishield “is an issue we are studying in more detail.”
The EU-wide COVID certificate will take effect on Thursday (July 1).
According to statistics from Agence France-Presse, Africa has approximately 5.4 million reported cases and approximately 141,000 deaths among its nearly 1.3 billion population. Africa is still the least affected continent in the world after Oceania.
However, cases in several African countries such as South Africa and Zambia are increasing rapidly, which has raised concerns about hospital capacity.
Marchidiso Morty, WHO’s director for Africa, called the situation “incredibly worrying” at a press conference last week and described the third wave of the virus on the African continent as “so far most severe”.
With the European continent basically falling behind in the global vaccination campaign, concerns about the new EU travel rules have also followed.