I’m one of 5 million with the AZ ‘India’ jab. Does this mean I can’t travel?

Photo by the author

The NHS vaccine rollout has been amazing and a real tribute to the professionalism of all those on the ground. They are entitled to take the credit, not the politicians…but that’s another story.

I had my first vaccination in mid March – Astra Zeneca. I felt pretty rough for two days afterwards and spent almost 36 hours in bed before bouncing back as if nothing had happened. I had my second in June and felt a bit wiped out for 24 hours. Anyway. All done. Double-vaxxed. Little card in my wallet and certification on the app. Able to go to Wimbledon. Brilliant.

I’ve got family in France and Sweden and would love to visit them as soon as it’s possible. With the Delta/Johnson variant going nuts, that doesn’t look likely any time soon, but all the same it’s something to look forward to and the EU vaccine passport is a fab idea.

Bu then I saw a tweet highlighting a problem with a specific batch of the Astra Zeneca vaccine which would stop me from travelling.

I dug out the little blue card. Well. You can see the photo above.. First vaccination was A4120z002. Hard enough to come to terms with the fact that Johnson’s blasted Brexit has removed my freedom of movement. I reckon if this government is going to crow about the vaccine rollout, it can certainly take responsibility for the procurement.

My dose was from three batches made by the Serum Institute of India and branded ‘Covishield’ everywhere but here in the UK, where it was given the Vaxzevria brand used by the domestically-produced version. I’ve got no reason to doubt that the vaccine I and five million others received was anything other than identical to the one manufactured in the UK. I think a lot of us felt really grim after the AZ vaccine but I don’t have any evidence that this was connected to the batches.

The problem is that the Serum Institute of India saw no reason to apply for EU approval for their vaccines because they weren’t selling to the EU. Unsurprisingly, the EU’s digital Covid-secure certificate does not cover vaccines that it has not approved. The result is that I (and five million others) would not be able to take advantage of the covid passport in order to travel freely(comparatively, because Brexit…). I would have to observe quarantine rules as if I were unvaccinated.

Some countries have exercised their individual sovereignty whilst being EU members (see, Lord Frost? No need to wreck a country!) and approved the Covishield vaccine for travel. Unfortunately for me, neither France nor Sweden are in that category.

I should imagine there are lots of fellow Brits hoping to escape to France at some point. As things stand, we are a bit stuffed. I don’t think many people know about the issue, either, which could make for some difficult encounters at borders when the anomaly is discovered. The Astra Zeneca vaccine is not approved at all in the USA so this issue is not unique to the EU.

The Serum Institute is reportedly seeking emergency authorisation from Europe for Covishield, which has widely been distributed in poorer countries as part of the Covax scheme.

I can’t help wondering why we felt it was a good idea to buy vaccines from a country which clearly needed every dose it could make, but then I recall Johnson and Hancock’s ludicrous obsession with jab numbers…