Amid concerns that up to five million Britons may not be able to travel to Europe because their Covid vaccines are not recognised, Boris Johnson has said he is "very confident" the issue will be resolved.
The Telegraph reported that Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) are not yet authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and so do not qualify for the European Union’s digital vaccine passport scheme, which is currently being rolled out.
The issue arose because doses of the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine are known under a different name, Covishield.
As a result, it has not been authorised by Europe’s regulator, despite being the same as other AstraZeneca vaccines.
The prime minister said vaccines approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should be recognised internationally.
He said after speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “I see no reason at all why the MHRA-approved vaccines should not be recognised as part of the vaccine passports, and I am very confident that that will not prove to be a problem.”
Earlier on Friday, Professor Adam Finn, from the government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the batches are “exactly the same stuff”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is an administrative hurdle that needs to be straightened out but people should not be concerned that they are in some way less well protected.
Coronavirus: What you need to know - How threatening is the Delta Plus variant and could your poo provide the answer?
“We’re in the early days of this new world of needed vaccine passports and there are lots of aspects of this that are still being sorted out for the first time.
“But it’s clearly, ultimately, not in anyone’s interest, including the European Union, to create hurdles that don’t need to be there.”
The EU's Digital Covid Certificate is being phased in over the next six weeks to ensure travellers can prove they are vaccinated against coronavirus so they do not have to quarantine when entering a country.
It is not yet clear whether Brits will use the NHS app as a vaccine passport, but a UK government spokesperson said the app will be “a key service” as foreign travel is reopened and hinted at a possible way to ease the Covishield issue.
They said: “All AstraZeneca vaccines given in the UK are the same product and appear on the NHS Covid Pass as Vaxzevria."
The NHS app is already being accepted by individual countries including Spain and Greece.
A European Commission spokesperson said “entry into the EU should be allowed to people fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines authorised in the EU”.
They added individual countries could also allow entry for people vaccinated with jabs on the World Health Organization’s emergency list.
They said: “This is the case for Covishield, which is not authorised for placing on the market in the EU.”
Downing Street said the MHRA has shared its assessment of the vaccines with the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
A No 10 spokesperson said: “They’re the same product which has been authorised and checked for safety and quality by our MHRA.
“They’ve shared their inspection report with the EMA.”
Stay up to date with the changing travel situation in the UK and abroad with news, information and advice at itv.com/holidaynews.