A series of bizarre policy moves by the UK government – refusing to recognize Covishield as a legitimate Covid-19 vaccine, only to backtrack later, following widespread furore, and then raising questions over India’s vaccination certification process – smacks of a racist streak. The embarrassing saga began with the announcement of a new set of rules for foreign travellers. According to these rules, Indians who have received both doses of the Covishield vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), will be considered unvaccinated and will have to undergo self-isolation for 10 days. Within a day, it realized the folly and included Covishield in the revised list of approved vaccines after India warned of reciprocal measures.
However, Indians travelling to the UK will still be required to be quarantined because the British government has no faith in the vaccination certificates issued by India. While the initial move of excluding Covishield from the list of approved vaccines, despite it being identical to the AstraZeneca vaccine used for mass inoculation drive in the UK, is anti-science, raising doubts over India’s due process of certification amounts to being racist and discriminatory. The vaccine certification in India is a centralized national system managed through the CoWIN app and portal. Covishield was developed by researchers at the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, and it already has emergency use approval (EUA) status from the World Health Organization. It must be pointed out that 88 percent of India’s eligible population has been vaccinated with Covishield. The move of the UK has caused anger and it smacks of colonial hangover. India should not accept this policy and continue to lodge strong protest against such discriminatory policy.