Canadians will be allowed entry into European Union countries without restriction, EU members agreed on Wednesday.
The move follows earlier concerns that people who received the COVID-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca Covishield, could be banned from traveling to Europe. The European Medicines Agency – the agency responsible for the evaluation and monitoring of medicines in the EU – has not approved the Covishield brand of the vaccine, of which more than 270,000 Canadians have received at least one dose during vaccine deployment.
The updated guidelines came during a meeting with ambassadors from the 27 member states of the European Union, EU diplomats told Reuters news agency. This means that Canadians will likely be exempt from these vaccine restrictions. In the latest round of additions to the EU’s list of epidemiologically safe countries, travelers from these countries have been allowed to enter the EU regardless of their vaccination status.
Member states can still impose restrictions, such as requiring a negative coronavirus test or self-isolation.
Fourteen countries were already on the EU’s list of safe third countries, including the United States, Australia, Israel, Japan and New Zealand, among others.
Along with Canada, 10 other countries have also obtained authorization for non-essential travel to the EU, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Jordan, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro , Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to the website. schengenvisainfo.com. The change is expected to take effect by the end of the week. Countries on the list have recently recorded low numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Before the change, several EU member states required Canadian travelers to receive a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency. Germany began allowing Canadians entry on June 25, provided they are immunized with a combination of EMA-approved vaccines. The same rule was in place in France for Canadians hoping to visit the country for non-essential travel since June 9.
Several EU member states and non-EU countries will start using a new vaccination passport system on July 1. The EU’s COVID digital certificate, or Green Pass, recognizes a mark of the AstraZeneca jab, the Vaxzveria. The Covishield, identical to Vaxzveria and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, is not approved by the EMA.
The implementation of the EU Vaccine Passport Certificate has raised questions as to whether non-member states would be required to participate in the vaccination passport system, potentially excluding millions of people around the world from traveling to the countries. of the EU.
University of Toronto bioethicist Kerry Bowman said there was no reason people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca brand produced in India should not be allowed into the EU compared to those who received a brand of biologically identical AstraZeneca vaccine produced elsewhere.
“Decisions will be made that unfairly divide people, which are primarily bureaucratic rather than evidence-based scientific,” Bowman said.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, highlighted the importance of international talks in resuming travel at a press conference on June 17.
“Each country has authorized different vaccines… they are all making different political decisions at the moment,” Tam said. “The important thing is to engage in international discussions … to get to a point where we can accept each other’s data … and envision a way forward that makes life easier and travelers are supported if they have been vaccinated. “
Serum Institute of India chief executive Adar Poonawalla told India’s Global Forum on Wednesday that the manufacturer has sought EMA approval through AstraZeneca and expects European drug regulators to approve the Covishield in the coming weeks, which means it could be added to the list of recognized products. vaccines for the EU vaccine passport, according to Bloomberg News.
The Covishield was produced widely for adoption in India and distributed to low-income countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia.
“The AstraZeneca might only be the tip of the iceberg,” Bowman said, noting that countries have rolled out a variety of vaccines to millions of people, like the Russian Sputnik V and the Chinese-made Sinovac and Sinopharm. “It introduces significant injustice, for no good scientific reason.”
Dr Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said AstraZeneca vaccines are no less effective than others, although they may have different side effect profiles.
“It’s not fair that resource-poor parts of the world that have researched vaccines that appear to be effective and effective are left out of travel,” Banerji said. “It creates barriers and discriminates against these countries. “
Bowman said he looked at his forms on Tuesday to check what brand of vaccine he was given, only to find his injections were simply labeled AstraZeneca. Although he knows there is no difference in vaccines, there might be customs officials asking him to clarify, he said, adding that the government should be clearer on AstraZeneca brands. .
Helen Miller, 63, received her first dose of AstraZeneca Covishield on March 12. Like many Canadians, she does not know which version of AstraZeneca she received for her second injection on May 27. At the time, there was pressure to speed up second appointments, when nearly 45,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were due to expire, until Health Canada extended the expiration date from May 31 to July 1. .
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) had yet to issue its recommendation on the effectiveness of the vaccine mix, and with no choice but AstraZeneca, and doctors saying “Take all you can. get it first, ”Miller scheduled a second dose of the same shot vaccine.
“I am disappointed,” Miller said. “It never occurred to anyone that there had been some sort of prestige or labels attached… There is a stigma that needs to be fought.”
She added that people around her have discussed a third injection, this time from Pfizer, so that their vaccine information no longer lists AstraZeneca.
“I don’t regret protecting myself and my family, but I regret the way it was handled,” Miller said. “Is it up to us to justify that our AstraZeneca vaccine is just as good?” If it’s as good as the other choices, then the government should support us. If that doesn’t give us equal protection, they should offer us an alternative. “
In mid-June, Canadians who received an AstraZeneca injection were told they would not be allowed to sit at “Springsteen on Broadway” because the vaccine is not approved by the Food and Drug. United States Administration. The theater hosting the show then reversed its decision, stating that all guests vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization would be welcome.
Bowman and Banerji both said there was a need for global standards on approved vaccinations, suggesting the World Health Organization could create one.