UK, others must ease the ‘simplified travel measures’

When he took his turn on Wednesday to speak at the 76th UN General Assembly meeting held in New York, USA, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo described as unfortunate a decision by some European countries to reject the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Ghanaian President’s criticism obviously was in reference to the so-called “simplified travel measures” announced recently by the UK Government and some other European countries, which comes into effect from October 4, 2021.

The measures specify that only persons who have received double-dose vaccines such as Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or the single-shot Janssen vaccine “under an approved vaccination programme in the UK, Europe, US or UK vaccine programme overseas” will be considered fully vaccinated.

The measures also consider persons who have received jabs under public health bodies in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan as fully-vaccinated.

Does that mean, for example, that Ghanaians who have taken jabs of COVAX’s double-dose AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine licensed to Serum Institute of India and the single-dose Johnson &Johnson vaccines would not be recognised as vaccinated by the Europeans?

President Akufo-Addo’s choice of words shows his groaning: “Ghana has so far received five million doses, which have been administered to frontline health workers and those classified as being most at risk.

“Five million is not a figure to be sneered at, particularly when we consider the situation in many other African countries….. We are still hoping to vaccinate 20 million of our people by the end of the year.

 “Ghana agrees with the call of the Rome Declaration of Global Health for voluntary licensing and technology transfers to boost vaccine production. The Africa Union is working with WHO, WTO and other global partners to expand its vaccine manufacturing and deployment.”

The Ghanaian Times shares the groaning of the President because if the Europeans stick to their travel measures, it would mean that the Rome Declaration of Global Health initiative would be bogus because the Europeans would determine which locally- produced vaccines are acceptable.

Meanwhile, there is this universally-accepted concept of Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) under which medical products are authorised for use during a pandemic to ensure timelyaccess to such much-needed health products for the duration of the pandemic.

The objective is to make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics available as rapidly as possible to address the emergency, while adhering to stringent criteria of safety, efficacy and quality.

This authorisation is given. In the EUA, manufacturers are requested to submit any additional documentation on the product as and when it becomes available.

It is acceptable some issues could be raised against locally-produced vaccines as was done against Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, but such issues must be scientific rather than mere bias and discrimination.

Can the Europeans tell the whole world the scientific basis for their travel measures?

For a very long time, the metropolitan countries, particularly the European ones, have become the standard in everything and even rubbish things specific to particular areas of the world.

Their ‘Big Brother’ role is good in areas where their expertise is unmatched, but where others can creditably and equally perform, they should not kill their initiative.

This paper, therefore, appeals to the UK and other countries to ease the“simplified travel measures” to clear the worries of other countries administering COVID-19 vaccines outside of the European list.

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