France rules people inoculated with AstraZeneca’s Covishield are ‘unvaccinated’

France rules people inoculated with AstraZeneca's Covishield are 'unvaccinated'
Photo: Ian Langsdon/AFP
The lack of an EU licence for Covishield - the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India - is leading to travellers from the UK, India and African to be technically classed as "unvaccinated" under French travel rules.

This story has been updated. Click HERE for the latest details.

Which vaccine?

The AstraZeneca vaccine technically has two names – Vaxzevria which is produced in Europe and Covishield which is produced under licence by the Serum Institute in India.

It’s produced to the same specifications using the same ingredients, but Covishield doesn’t have a sales licence in the EU. The manufacturers presumably didn’t think this was important since their product is used mostly in India and Africa, but have now run into a problem – the EU’s vaccine passport rules specifically states that it will accept all vaccines licenced by the European Medicines Agency, which does not include Covishield.

This means that travellers from India and Africa vaccinated with it cannot use vaccine certificates for entry to the EU.

This is also a problem for some British travellers, since the UK’s vaccine programme has used large amounts of the Indian-produced AstraZeneca product.

Arrivals from the UK who are fully vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria product are not affected by this.

If your vaccine certificate states only AstraZeneca, you can check the batch number.

This does not affect people who received their vaccination in France.

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What does the EU say?

The Local asked the European Commission, who told us: “At present, Covishield is not authorised for placing on the market in the EU. However, it has completed the World Health Organisation Emergency Use Listing process.

“EU Member States can therefore decide to allow entry to those vaccinated with Covishield.”

In other words, it’s up to the French government to decide whether they will accept Covishield-jabbed people as “fully vaccinated” under France’s travel rules.

So what do the French say?

The Local has asked the French government if they can provide some clarity on this matter and the Interior Ministry told us: “Covishield does not appear on the list of vaccines approved by the EU.”

So in travel terms, anyone vaccinated with Covishield does not count as ‘fully vaccinated’ according to the French criteria.

Officials have been quoted as saying that France is “actively working” on the issue of Covishield’s absence from the list of accepted vaccines after the matter was raised bilaterally by India.

“We are actively considering it and working on it,” a senior diplomat told RFI.

Groups representing French citizens living overseas – who might have been vaccinated with Covishield – have also been putting pressure on the government.

Is this important?

It is, because the UK is currently on France’s orange list, which means only fully vaccinated travellers can enter France for non-essential purposes such as holidays and family visits.

READ ALSO How France’s traffic light travel system works

So if you don’t fit one of the categories for essential travel – which includes anyone permanently resident in France – the type of vaccine you have could mean the difference between being allowed in or not.

All arrivals – vaccinated or not – still need a Covid test, but non-vaccinated also need to quarantine for 7 days once here.

India is on France’s red list, which means no non-essential travel at all, even for fully vaccinated people. There is a difference in the quarantine length for vaccinated or non-vaccinated travellers, however.

Is this likely to change?

Several countries within Europe have decided to accept Covishield, accepting that it is essentially the same product as Vaxzevria, and the Serum Institute has also applied for a European sales licence. If that is granted – and there seems no reason why it would not be since AstraZeneca already has a sales licence – it would automatically be added to the list of accepted vaccines for all EU and Schengen zone countries.

Both the Indian and British governments have taken up the issue with the EU asking for Covishield to be added to the list of accepted vaccines for entry to the Bloc.

For the latest on travel rules in and out of France, head to our Travelling to France section.


Member comments

  1. Earlier this year, EU tried to buy 10million AZ vaccine doses from India. They got turned down but I don’t think they were too bothered by the branding on the label.

  2. This is my understanding: The problem is in the name, not in the origin of the vaccine. The Astra Zeneca, Vaxzevria vaccine is made in several factories, including one in India, which all make an identical product – there is no suggestion that any of the manufacturers make an inferior product. The Indian factory also markets the identical vaccine under the name CoviShield, and that is what it is known as in many parts of the world – there is nothing unusual in drugs being called different names in different parts of the world. Although both names are accepted by the WHO, the EU only licensed the name Vaxzevria because that was what it was called when it was delivered and tested in Europe. The NHS certificate correctly calls the vaccine from all sources Vaxzevria, because that is what it is and that is what it is called in Europe. In time, the EU will probably get around to accepting CoviShield – this is an administrative problem, not a medical one. In the meantime, if you have Vaxzevria on your COVID Vaccination Certificate, there is nothing written down in the official guidance from either the UK or French authorities to indicate that certain batch numbers are not accepted. Let’s keep it this way and try not to escalate a small administrative problem into one which could prevent many UK travellers from getting to France.

    1. I agree. It’s only one person’s experience but I got through Eurotunnel controls and French customs yesterday without anyone taking the slightest interest in my batch number for dose 1 which is one of the three being circulated online as “Indian”.

      The UK certifies I have “Vaxzevria” NOT “Covishield”. The French published rules are that Astra Zeneca (Vaxzevria) is permitted and that was what he looked at.

      Obviously for people actually vaccinated with Covishield this is a different issue. For UK people this surely only becomes an issue if France or the EU more generally decides somehow that the UK is falsifying its certificates and ceases to accept them?

      As I say my own personal experience was that they could not have taken any less interest in the batch number clearly written on my certificate. Also given carriers are as I understand fined (heavily) for inappropriately papered passengers arriving at immigration I also think the first sign of a problem will be Eurotunnel (which is why I had to queue for half an hour inside the terminal to show my papers before they would give me a boarding letter) and airlines demanding pre loading of batch numbers on bookings. They don’t as of now.

  3. The best strategy would be to stop talking about batch numbers – if the NHS certificate says AstraZeneca Vaxzevria, then that is cleared by the EU and is causing no problems – end of story. Getting the French (and other) authorities to look into batch numbers may put them on the spot and could end up with them making an unfortunate decision. If this subject had not been raised by the press, it would have been a non-issue. Let’s stop asking questions and just keep travelling within the rules as written on the authorities’ websites, where there is no mention of batch numbers, only accepted vaccines.

  4. So I had my first dose in the UK and yes it was an Indian batch. So is it safe to have a 3rd dose?

  5. I am vaccinated with Covishield and travelling soon to France. This is really problematic since the vaccine is same as Vaxzevria and approved by WHO. I don’t know what is the problem in adding it to approved list. This is really not a logical stand by EU.

  6. My husband and I have both got one of our doses of AZ with these batches (unfortunately), BUT the vaccine is called on the certificate as Vaxzevria… we are travelling through France (sleeping one night only) to go into Italy, so we’ll have to quarantine (for now) in Italy….but I hope this is not another impediment for travel. I am going to have some business meetings in Switzerland and then we need to fix some things of our apartment that we rent on Booking & Airbnb – lots of bits and bobs that need to be sorted. I am interested in hearing any development on this story. I still think it should be ok….

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