Despite talks, UK yet to decide on nod to CoWIN certification

Updated on Oct 01, 2021 04:41 AM IST

The approval on the British side involves a whole-of-government approach and some time will be needed for consultations

People assemble to register themselves to get inoculated against Covid-19 in Hyderabad on Thursday. (AP)
People assemble to register themselves to get inoculated against Covid-19 in Hyderabad on Thursday. (AP)

The UK is yet to take a call on accepting India’s vaccine certification even 10 days after the end of technical discussions between the two countries that were expected to resolve the issue.

The decision on the British side will involve consultations between several ministries, including the Department of Health and Social Care and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, people familiar with the matter said. It follows the completion of technical discussions in New Delhi, they added on condition of anonymity.

The inclusion of the complete date of birth in vaccine certification done through India’s CoWIN platform has met a key requirement of the British side, they said.

The approval on the British side involves a whole-of-government approach and some time will be needed for consultations, they added. The British side is aware of the urgency of the matter and authorities are pushing for a speedy resolution, they said.

Indian officials have held two technical meetings with UK representatives; in the first one the British High Commissioner personally met the chief executive of the National Health Authority on September 2; the second meeting was held on September 21 between the technical teams of the two sides.

The two sides made each other understand how their respective systems worked, and both the sides called these meetings “quite fruitful”.

“The overall policy framework will be in consultation with the ministry of external affairs; they are the ones who are our face or who are the ones talking to them (the UK officials). As far as we are concerned, we have lent an ear to them and they are also convinced that certificate is not an issue. We have had two meetings with them and they have clearly told us that the certificate process is not the issue,” said RS Sharma, chief executive officer, National Health Authority.

The discussions focused on certification through the CoWIN app, the security of the system, data sharing between the two sides, and reconciling the CoWIN system with the NHS Covid Pass developed by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).

“It is beyond my mandate to probe the issue as I am in charge of the CoWIN platform and our process is by far the best in the world,” added Sharma.

Regarding CoWIN meeting the WHO requirements, Sharma, in a tweet on Thursday, reiterated, “Building a world-class digital platform for vaccination, we have ensured CoWIN certification is compliant with the WHO-DDCC:VS data dictionary. Now, international travellers can download an international version of their certificate that reflects their date of birth from CoWIN.”

UK high commissioner Alex Ellis and Sharma also met on September 23, and the envoy described those talks as “an important step forward in our joint aim to facilitate travel”.

Ellis said at the time that neither side had raised technical concerns about each other’s certification process.

The vaccine certification row emerged in the open at a time when overall India-UK ties are on the upswing. It has become a problem as growing numbers of Indians, especially students, are travelling to the UK.

In a media briefing on September 21, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla, said that India could consider imposing “reciprocal measures” against countries that do not accept the country’s vaccine certification, a statement that people saw as a response to the stand taken by the United Kingdom, which has sparked allegations of vaccine racism.

While the UK recognised Covishield, the local variant of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine soon after, it still did not put India on the list of countries, travellers from which are eligible for the UK green pass. India continues to be in the UK’s so-called amber list of countries whose citizens have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival.

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    Rezaul H Laskar is the Foreign Affairs Editor at Hindustan Times. His interests include movies and music.


    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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