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EU Butts Heads With WHO, Won’t Accept Certain Vaccines Made Abroad For Vaccine Passports

(Photo by OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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Millions of vaccinated people around the world could remain barred from the EU for the foreseeable future despite being inoculated against COVID-19.

EU regulators announced earlier this year that travelers would be allowed to return to Europe from abroad, but only if they have proof of vaccination, a negative test or have recently recovered from the virus. Now, some vaccines being used abroad are being turned down by the EU despite being approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor and his wife received two doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Nigeria, but the version of the vaccine produced in India hasn’t been approved for entry by EU regulators, according to The Associated Press. The Nsofors won’t be able to take a planned vacation to Europe, despite the fact that AstraZeneca doses produced in Europe have been approved.

“We’re grateful to the EU that they funded COVAX, but now they are essentially discriminating against a vaccine that they actively funded and promoted,” Nsofor told the AP. “This will just give room to all kinds of conspiracy theories that the vaccines we’re getting in Africa are not as good as the ones they have for themselves in the West.”

COVAX is the WHO’s global vaccination program, which has connected vaccine donors in rich countries with developing nations that lack access to remedies of their own to stop the pandemic. The Indian AstraZeneca vaccine was supplied to Nigeria by COVAX, and WHO investigators have visited the factory where it’s produced, according to the AP. However, EU regulators have not visited it themselves and thus won’t approve it for their vaccine passports.

Some are accusing the EU of racism for not bending to WHO standards. “Vaccines that have met WHO’s threshold should be accepted. Otherwise it looks like there’s an element of racism here,” Dr. Mesfin Teklu Tessema, director of health for the International Rescue Committee, told the AP. (RELATED: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Threatens Citizens With Jail For Refusing Vaccination)

The EU will only accept the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and European-made AstraZeneca vaccines. This cuts out many of the vaccines supplies to COVAX including those produced by Russia and China.

“We are not trying to create any doubts about this vaccine,” EU spokesman Stefan De Keersmaeker told the AP. He said European regulators were obligated to inspect production facilities before granting approval.