India opposes 'vaccine passport', Harsh Vardhan says idea 'discriminatory'
Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Friday conveyed India's strong opposition to the idea of vaccine passport at a G7 plus ministerial session. Dr Vardhan said that it is still immature to implement such a move — in which countries may allow only vaccinated travellers — as the vaccination coverage of developing countries is less than the developed countries.
"At this stage of the pandemic, it is pertinent to also discuss India's concern over the idea of a vaccine passport. Considering the fact of the lower levels of vaccination of the population in developing countries in contrast to the developed countries and given the still-unaddressed issues related to equitable and affordable access, supply and distribution of safe and effective vaccines, India would propose that the implementation of a vaccine passport will be hugely discriminatory and disadvantageous to the developing countries. India would suggest that the same should be implemented duly taking into consideration emerging evidence of the efficacy of vaccines and under the over-arching coordination by WHO duly attending to the anomaly of access and affordability as it exists today," the health minister said.
The minister tweeted that with India being invited as a guest nation for this year's G7, he had the privilege to address the health ministers meeting via video conference. "Expressed India's concern & strong opposition to 'Vaccine Passport' at this juncture of the #pandemic. With vaccine coverage as a % of population in developing countries still low compared to developed countries, such an initiative could prove to be highly discriminatory," the minister tweeted.
The Group of Seven is an intergovernmental organisation comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
According to reports, the United States is taking a close look at vaccine passports for travel. The European Union and some Asian governments are reportedly working on some digital vaccination certificates to resume international travel. All this is at the negotiation level as the World Health Organization doesn’t recommend vaccination proof as a requirement for international travel, citing "unequal distribution of vaccines". The Centre too clarified earlier that there has been no consensus in this regard.
As talks regarding vaccine passports are going on, it was apprehended that Indians inoculated with Covaxin will not be allowed international travel as Bharat Biotech's Covaxin is yet to be approved by the World Health Organization. While the Centre has clarified that no country has taken such a move, it confirmed on Friday that it is actively pursuing Bharat Biotech's application for WHO emergency listing with both Bharat Biotech and WHO.