New Delhi: India on Thursday called for a “constructive solution” to problems faced by students whose plans to travel to the US to join classes in the autumn have been hit by the lack of uniform vaccination requirements.
The US embassy began scheduling visa interviews for Indian students this week and American officials have said applicants won’t require proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter the US. Students will only require a negative Covid-19 test conducted three days prior to their departure.
While thousands of students have secured visa appointments for July and August, some American educational institutions are calling for applicants who got Covaxin or Sputnik V shots to be revaccinated as these jabs are not recognised by US authorities.
Asked about these issues at a weekly news briefing, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “There is no uniformity in the requirements. The US government has clarified that vaccination is not a mandatory requirement for our students to travel.”
He said “multiple conversations” were on between Indian students and the US universities on this. “We would obviously support our students. I think everyone concerned is interested in ensuring that the students are able to reach the universities and undertake regular classes and we hope that a constructive solution is found,” Bagchi added.
Covaxin and Covishield are the two main jabs being used in India’s vaccination programme. Covishield, which is the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India, has been granted an emergency use listing by the World Health Organization (WHO), and is accepted under the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for entry of foreign travellers.
While ruling out the possibility of India issuing any “vaccine passport” at the present time, Bagchi said global discussions on this issue should be conducted in the context of vaccines being more widely available around the world.
“There is an ongoing global debate on this issue of so-called vaccine passports. We feel this has to be linked to the larger issue of vaccine equity, given that many developing countries have not yet been able to vaccinate a large percentage of their population,” he said.
“We would favour discussions on the subject of vaccine passports with greater focus on vaccine equity. I don’t have any information about India issuing any vaccine passport,” he said.
In response to another question on the sharing of the US administration’s plans to share 80 million surplus doses of vaccines with countries around the world, Bagchi said India is still awaiting details regarding the timeline and quantity of shots that will be shared with various countries.
Bagchi also said India is hopeful the process of the WHO granting emergency use authorisation for the Covaxin shot developed by Bharat Biotech will be expeditiously completed. “We are keeping a close watch on this issue. Our expectation would be that this process would be completed speedily,” he said.
Bharat Biotech submitted an expression of interest for emergency use authorisation to WHO on April 19, following which the UN health agency sought more information from it.
WHO’s latest update on emergency use listing of Covid-19 vaccines, issued on June 16, shows that a pre-submission meeting is planned for June 23.