Will the Vaccine War determine the color of the Vaccine Passport?
A recent update on countries accepting Indians as visitors based on their Vaccination choice has resulted in apprehensions among Indians. Travel management for business, studies, leisure or medical/health reasons is going to be significantly affected if Indians have chosen to go for COVAXIN as their anti-COVID shot, as per reports. This includes probably even the highest authorities in the Indian government, as the Indian manufactured COVAXIN was their choice when it came to vaccination. Nationalism will probably affect internationalism.
While most of the countries across the globe have given acceptance to Oxford’s AstraZeneca based COVISHIELD (manufactured by Serum Institute of India), the indigenously manufactured COVAXIN (Bharat Biotech) has been given acceptance only by 8 other countries (Nepal, Mauritius, Philippines, Mexico, Paraguay, Iran, Guyana, Zimbabwe). This will mean probably require more aggressive lobbying by Bharat Biotech and our diplomats. No reactions from Bharat Biotech on this report have been made public as yet.
While leisure travellers will be the least affected as travel is a choice for them, the most affected will be the students, who are currently in India due to the pandemic and have been studying abroad or have enrolled in foreign universities. If the student has chosen COVAXIN as their vaccine, then they will have to wait for the preapproval from WHO and of the other countries who will then decide on permitting Indians with the COVAXIN passport. IF the Indian manufactured COVAXIN is not approved by major countries across the globe, students will be the most affected. Business travellers come second.
The total doses administered for COVISHIELD in India is a mammoth 17,32,48,016 versus 2,09,17,308 administered as COVAXIN (source: COWIN.GOV.IN @1904IST 24 May).
While even Chinese made vaccines are not being accepted by the United States and Western Europe, one of the reasons for the limited (negligible) approval of COVAXIN presently is because it has not been approved by WHO. Bharat Biotec, the company that has developed COVAXIN has already approached the WHO for prequalification. WHO says that it is in the process of reviewing the kind of data submitted by Bharat Biotec. Bharat Biotec is also tapping the overseas market as WHO approval depends on how the vaccine gets through to countries apart from the country where it has been developed.
As per reports, the efficacy is COVAXIN is 70%. A new study published by the UK government has said that 2 shots of Oxford’s AstraZeneca and Pfizer are 80% effective in dealing with B1.617.2, the new COVID variant emanating from India, which has damaged the countries health fabric in the last 4 months.
All in all, the vaccine wars will determine the colour of the Vaccine Passport. It will be a net result of who delivers, lobbies strongly, political and government policies and what vaccine we are made to take.