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Govt defends CoWin certificate as UK nod for Covishield fails to resolve travel row

The Indian Covid vaccination certificate is in line with template developed by the UN and International Civil Aviation Organisation, say govt officials.

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New Delhi: While Covishield now has the status of an approved vaccine in the UK, India is not looking at making any changes in the CoWin certification process at the present moment, highly placed government sources have told ThePrint. The Indian Covid vaccination certificate, the sources said, is in line with the template developed by the UN and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO, a UN agency).

A controversy erupted last week when it came to light that the UK’s new Covid travel rules that are to kick in 4 October didn’t recognise those traveling from India as being fully vaccinated — even those inoculated with Covishield, developed by UK’s Oxford University and British-Swedish pharma company AstraZeneca and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. The move was described by India as “discriminatory”.

The UK has now given its nod to Covishield as an approved vaccine. 

“Formulations of the four listed vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda, qualify as approved vaccines. You must have had a complete course of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before you arrive in England,” read the revised rules for travelling to the UK.

However, the issues about CoWin certification and India’s Covid vaccine certificates remain. When the new rules come into effect, India will be in the “red list” of countries, which means people travelling to the UK from here will be required to observe a 10-day quarantine and undergo multiple paid Covid tests.

Sources have told ThePrint that the UK government has reservations about the CoWin certification process and the authenticity of the vaccine certificates generated, but officials in the Union Health Ministry said the template is in line with international standards.

“There are no problems with the CoWin certificate per se and in their official communication with us there is no mention of that either. Our certificate is in line with the template that was developed by the UN and ICAO. The only difference is that the template lists date of birth and ours gives the age — that is the year of birth and not the specific date. Both of these organisations are broad-based with membership of 130 countries and our certificate has all the details,” a senior health ministry official told ThePrint while denying that there are any plans to make changes in CoWin to address the concerns of the UK government.

“Many other countries do not even have a digital certificate and are simply issuing handwritten certificates.”

Also Read: In India’s vaccination race, Covishield at 88% beats Covaxin hands down

The ‘model’ certificate vs the real one

In June this year, India had incorporated a feature in the CoWin portal that allowed people requiring to travel abroad to add their passport details in the vaccine certificate. Earlier this month, another feature was added in the website that enabled third parties to check the authenticity of a certificate. 

The details in the UN-ICAO template include name of the person, date of birth, passport number, identity card number, the name of the disease against which they have been vaccinated, the type of vaccine, the name of the manufacturer, the batch number, the date of vaccination, the administering centre and the number of doses administered. There is also a bar code.

India’s vaccination certificate has name, age, sex, Aadhaar (or other identitiy card) number, the unique health ID, a beneficiary reference ID, the name of the vaccine, the dates of the first and second doses, each with the batch number, name of the vaccinator, the vaccination centre and a bar code. It also has a photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a message from him: “Dawai Bhi Kadai Bhi (medicine and restrictions together) Together, India will defeat Covid-19”.

The health ministry official said no concerns about CoWin have been raised officially. 

“There is no mention of this (concerns about the CoWin certification process) in their official communication with us. Neither the government of the UK nor Public Health England have said anything to that effect. There were issues about Covishield (that currently stand resolved) and then the fact that India is in the red list and people from here travelling there have to quarantine irrespective of their vaccination status,” the official added. 

“There is still some time until 4 October and we are hopeful now that our communication about reciprocal action has gone out, we have hopes that this would be resolved before that,” the official said.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: UK has issue with India’s CoWin certification, not vaccine. Travel restrictions to remain


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