Australian govt gives nod to Covishield for international travellers
Australia on Friday declared Covishield, the Indian variant of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 shot, as a “recognised vaccine” for international travellers as part of measures aimed at safely reopening the country from November.
The Australian side, however, indicated that Indian students will have to wait some more time before being granted permission to return. Australia’s visiting trade and tourism minister Dan Tehan said foreign students will be able to start “returning towards the end of this year and the beginning of next year”, ahead of the start of the first semester in February-March 2022.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) of Australia listed Covishield and China’s Coronavac (Sinovac) as “recognised vaccines” after an initial assessment of data on protection offered by the two jabs.
Covishield, made by the Serum Institute of India, and Coronavac “should be considered as ‘recognised vaccines’ for the purpose of determining incoming international travellers as being appropriately vaccinated”, said a statement issued jointly by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and several ministers.
The statement outlined the next steps to be taken by Australia to lift a ban on international flights and to make changes at the international border. “Our government is setting out the framework for how international travel will look in coming months,” it said.
India has been pressing the Australian side to open up travel for Indian nationals, especially students wishing to join courses at universities and educational institutions. India is the second largest source of foreign students in Australia, behind China. During 2019-20, Indian students contributed $6.6 billion to the Australian economy.
Tehan told reporters in New Delhi: “We are on track to see [the] reopening [of Australia] occur in November. This is so important in a number of areas...it means the pathway for Indian students to return to Australia is there again.” “We are warmly looking forward to welcoming the Indian students.”
Australia’s recognition of Covishield also creates a pathway for Indian businesspeople to return, Tehan said. In response to a question on Australia possibly recognising India’s Covaxin shot, Tehan said this could be considered once the vaccine is approved by the WHO.
The Australian government plans to move forward on foreign travel only after 70% of the population has been fully vaccinated. More than 78% of Australians have received the first dose and double dose rates are at 55%, with some areas on track to reach 70% over the next week.
In the initial stages, Australia will allow travel to reunite Australian families. It will also work towards allowing in tourists.
The statement further said the declaration of Covishield as a “recognised vaccine” for international travellers did not mean it had been approved for use for vaccination in Australia. “The recognition of these two additional vaccines is a major milestone towards more Australians vaccinated overseas getting home sooner,” it said.