Month-long wait for Indian-made AstraZeneca jabs to be approved in Europe

Britons who have been jabbed with Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine face a month-long wait to be allowed to travel to nearly half of Europe, it has emerged.

The Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactured the doses, administered to roughly five million people in the UK, has said it is likely to take weeks to resolve the "politics" preventing the recipients from travelling.

It comes after The Telegraph revealed that holidaymakers had been prevented from boarding a plane to Malta because their vaccine batch number was not recognised by the EU.

This was despite the fact that the Indian-made product is exactly the same as the AstraZeneca vaccine made in the UK – which has been recognised by the European Medicines Agency.

On Wednesday, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said Malta had decided to recognise the three batches, joining 15 other countries, including Spain, Germany and Greece, in doing so.

However, major holiday destinations including France, Italy and Croatia are still refusing to recognise them.

In a letter to one anxious recipient, seen by The Telegraph, SII wrote that the AstraZeneca doses manufactured in India, known as Covishield, are "identical" to those produced in the UK.

The letter said: "Fifteen countries in Europe have already approved Covishield and these batches, the rest should be concluded within a month.

"Sadly, this is out of our hands – we are doing our best to expedite this and it is up to the countries really to accept our product as official vaccine certificates are not issued by us. This is a bureaucratic matter and political matter at the country level."

The Department of Health and Social Care had previously said no Britons who had received the Indian-made jabs would be negatively impacted.

Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday: "The [UK] medicines agency, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, have been very clear that it doesn’t matter whether the AstraZeneca you have is made here or the Serum Institute in India.

"It is absolutely the same product, it provides exactly the same levels of protection from the virus."

He later tweeted: "The Maltese authorities have amended their travel advice, so anyone who has an Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK (regardless of manufacture location) is able to travel without being turned away – with all vaccines having gone through rigorous safety and quality checks."

A government spokesman said: "This incident happened last week, and the Maltese authorities have since agreed to amend their travel advice so this should not happen again.

"All AstraZeneca vaccines given in the UK are the same product and appear on the NHS Covid Pass as Vaxzevria. The European Medicines Agency, as well as our own medicines regulator, has authorised this vaccine, and travel should not be affected."

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