Problems faced by Indian students vaccinated with the Covaxin jab in planning a return to US educational institutions figured in a meeting between foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and US chargé d’ affaires Daniel Smith on Wednesday, people familiar with developments said.
Shringla had a “productive meeting” with Smith on India-US relations, regional issues and cooperation at the UN, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a tweet.
They also discussed the Covid-19 situation, supply of vaccines and cooperation in combating the pandemic, Bagchi said without going into details.
The people cited above said on condition of anonymity that the issue of travel by Indian students vaccinated with the indigenously developed Covaxin vaccine, which hasn’t been authorised by the World Health Organization (WHO), was raised by Shringla. The people added that Smith indicated India’s concerns would be conveyed to US authorities.
Covaxin and Covishield are the two main jabs being used in India’s vaccination programme. Covishield, which is the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India, has been granted an emergency use listing by WHO, and is accepted under the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for entry of foreign travellers.
With many US universities opening up to international students and planning in-person classes from autumn, students are required to be fully vaccinated.
According to guidelines posted on the CDC website, foreign travellers are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose vaccine such as the Pfizer or Moderna jabs, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “If you don’t meet these requirements, you are NOT fully vaccinated,” the guidelines state.
Of the vaccines being used in India, the CDC approves only the AstraZeneca jab.
Indian students planning to join campuses in the US and European countries, where too Covaxin isn’t approved, have raised this matter with the government, especially the external affairs ministry.
Bharat Biotech, the makers of Covaxin, intends to provide additional documentation needed for WHO’s emergency use listing of the vaccine by June. The status of the application for emergency use listing of Covaxin by WHO was assessed at a virtual meeting late last month that was joined by Shringla.