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EU’s ‘green pass’ for Covishield: What is the document all about

The Serum Institute of India is approaching the European Medicines Agency for approval of its Covid-19 vaccine, Covishield, for the European Union’s Green Pass.
By hindustantimes.com | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUN 29, 2021 05:28 AM IST
The Serum Institute of India is approaching the EMA for approval of its Covid-19 vaccine, Covishield, for the European Union’s Green Pass. (File Photo)

India will take up the issue of approval of the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) with the European Union during discussions between Indian and EU officials on the margins of the G20 meeting in Italy on Tuesday. Those vaccinated with Covishield, the version of the AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured in India by SII, are not eligible for the EU Digital Covid certificate or “green pass”. It is an immunity document to ease travel within and to the 27-member bloc. It will be in place by July 1.

Comirnaty of Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca’s Vaxzervria and Janssen by Johnson & Johnson are the only four Covid-19 vaccines approved by EMA, which have received EU-wide marketing authorisation. Covishield is also a version of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine and is being manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India.

Also read | Covishield’s green pass approval by EMA to be discussed on G20 sidelines

Serum Institute of India’s chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla said on Monday he has taken up the matter “at the highest level” to ensure Indians don’t face any travel restrictions. “I realise that a lot of Indians who have taken Covishield are facing issues with travel to the EU. I assure everyone, I have taken this up at the highest levels and hope to resolve this matter soon, both with regulators and at a diplomatic level with countries,” Poonawalla tweeted.

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The Serum Institute of India is approaching the EMA for approval of its Covid-19 vaccine, Covishield, for the European Union’s Green Pass.

What is the EU Digital Covid Certificate?

An EU Digital Covid Certificate is digital proof that a person has either been vaccinated against Covid-19, received a negative test result or recovered from Covid-19. The certificate is both in digital and paper format, comes with a QR code is free of charge, is in the national language and English, is safe and secure and valid in all EU countries.

How can one get the certificate?

National authorities are in charge of issuing the certificate, for example, it could be issued by test centres or health authorities or directly via an eHealth portal. 

The digital version can be stored on a mobile device and at the same people can also request a paper version. Both versions will have a QR code with essential information and a digital signature to make sure the certificate is authentic.

How will it help free movement?

The EU Digital Covid Certificate will be accepted in all member states of the EU and will help ensure that restrictions currently in place can be lifted in a coordinated manner. The EU Digital Covid Certificate holder should in principle be exempted from free movement restrictions when travelling and member states should refrain from imposing additional travel restrictions on them. 

Also read | Covishield excluded from new EU Covid 'Green Pass' eligibility list

They can stop holder from travelling if it is necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health. In such a case – for instance as a reaction to new variants of concern – that member state would have to notify the Commission and all other member states and justify its decision.

Also watch | Travel hurdle over made-in-India vaccine: What SII CEO said on Covishield-EU row

 How will the certificate work?

The EU Digital Covid Certificate contains a QR code with a digital signature to protect it against falsification. When the certificate is checked, the QR code is scanned and the signature verified. Each issuing body (e.g. a hospital, a test centre, a health authority) has its own digital signature key. All of these are stored in a secure database in each country.

The European Commission has built a gateway through which all certificate signatures can be verified across the EU. The personal data of the certificate holder does not pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature. The European Commission also helped member states to develop national software and apps to issue, store and verify certificates and supported them in the necessary tests to onboard the gateway. 

Can unvaccinated people travel to another EU country?

Yes. The EU Digital Covid Certificate should facilitate free movement inside the EU. It will not be a pre-condition to free movement, which is a fundamental right in the EU.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate will also prove the results of testing, which is often required under applicable public health restrictions. The certificate is an opportunity for member states to adjust the existing restrictions on public health grounds. The currently applicable recommendation on coordinating free movement restrictions in the EU will also be amended by mid-June with a view to the holiday season.

Does the vaccine matter? 

Vaccination certificates will be issued to a vaccinated person for any Covid-19 vaccine. Member states will have to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines, which received EU marketing authorisation, when it comes to waiving free movement restrictions. 

They may decide to extend this to EU travellers who received another vaccine as well. Member states can also decide whether they accept a vaccination certificate after one dose or after a full vaccination cycle has been completed.

What data does the certificate include?

The EU Digital Covid Certificate contains necessary key information such as name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccine/ test/recovery and a unique identifier. This data remains on the certificate and is not stored or retained when a certificate is verified in another member state. 

The certificates will only include a limited set of information that is necessary. This cannot be retained by visited countries. For verification purposes, only the validity and authenticity of the certificate is checked by verifying who issued and signed it. All health data remains with the Member State that issued an EU Digital Covid Certificate.

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