Covishield is now an approved vaccine on the UK's revised guidelines for travel after a furious India warned of "reciprocal measures", but double-vaccinated Indians still have to quarantine because of "vaccination certification issues", according to UK officials.
Officials have implied the problem is not Covishield but doubts over vaccine certification in India.
Responding to the new sticking point, a top health official told NDTV there are "no issues" with the Indian vaccine certificate.
The updated UK travel guidelines say, "Formulations of the four listed vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Modern Takeda, qualify as approved vaccines." The site explains that from 4 am, October 4, those who have taken vaccines from a "relevant public health body" in specific countries will be considered "fully vaccinated". That list does not include India.
This suggests that Indians vaccinated with two doses of Covishield, produced by Serum Institute of India (SII), will still need to quarantine even though India is now on the Amber list.
Speaking to NDTV, British High Commissioner to India Alex Ellis said, "India is still on the Amber category because there are still some COVID-19 cases in India. Most other nations on the list that do not need any quarantine are in the green category, where the number of active cases are very low in comparison."
"While Covishield is approved, the UK government is still trying to understand how the Indian Covid vaccine app works. And let me assure you, that this is a two-way process. We are also letting India know how the UK government Covid app works. Once we understand this better and know that it is absolutely safe, we can go ahead and remove the quarantine for Indian travellers," he said.
A British High Commission statement yesterday said: "We are engaging with the Government of India to explore how we could expand UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India."
Certification after Covid jabs in India is a centralised national system managed through the CoWin app and portal.
RS Sharma, the CEO of the National Health Authority, told NDTV there are "no issues" on CoWin with Covid certification.
"The system is entirely WHO (World Health Organisation) compliant. We continue to have discussions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation as well. The UK High Commissioner visited me on September 2. They wanted to understand the CoWin system, the technical aspects. A resource has been allocated to them for this purpose and two further conversations have happened with their team. These were technical-level conversations," Dr Sharma said.
Serum Institute's Adar Poonawalla, expressing "delight" at Covishield being recognised, noted that the matter for Indians travelling to the UK was still not resolved.
"We are delighted that Covishield is recognised as a vaccine equivalent to AstraZeneca on the official gov.uk website. However, the matter for travel and quarantine is not resolved and all those looking to travel to the UK should carefully follow official entry guidelines,'' Mr Poonawalla told NDTV.
India had warned of "reciprocal measures" if Covishield, the Indian version of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, was not recognised.
"The non-recognition of Covishield is a discriminatory policy and impacts our citizens travelling to the UK. The External Affairs Minister has raised the issue strongly with the new UK foreign secretary. I am told that certain assurances have been given that this issue will be resolved," Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had told reporters yesterday.