“Vaccinated but …”: delay in approval of Covaxin by WHO hits Indian travelers


Sugathan PR received two doses of the Covaxin vaccine from Bharat Biotech.


Stuck in a village for nine months and unable to return to work in Saudi Arabia, Sugathan PR is hopeful that the World Health Organization will approve Covaxin’s COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for his return.

Like Mr Sugathan, millions of Indians have taken Covaxin and many have complained of travel difficulties as the vaccine has not been recognized for international travel by several countries.

“I cannot continue to sit idly by here,” said Sugathan, 57, who returned to Pandalam village in Kerala in January to be with his family after missing his father’s funeral last year when the pandemic disrupted flights.

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“I had the option to go to Saudi Arabia and take (additional doses of) Covishield after a four-day institutional quarantine, but I was not sure about its implications for my health,” Mr Sugathan said. , referring to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“If the approval for Covaxin does not come, I will take the risk of going for a vaccine approved by Saudi Arabia,” he added, sitting in his spacious two-story house bordered by rice fields.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said after a meeting on Tuesday that her independent experts had requested “further clarification” from the maker of Covaxin Bharat Biotech for a final assessment on November 3.

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The global agency has been deliberating on data provided by Bharat Biotech since early July, but said it could not “cut corners” to make a decision.

Without a nod from the WHO, it is unlikely that two-dose Covaxin would be accepted as a valid vaccine around the world and would complicate travel plans for Indians who have taken it.

Rajan Pallivadakethil Unnunni, 59, who worked in Kuwait as a welder for two decades before flying to India late last year, was unable to return because Kuwait does not recognize Covaxin.

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He is now struggling to repay his $ 20,000 bank loan by selling chicken at a small stall in Kerala and earning $ 4 a day.

“If I can’t return to Kuwait, I won’t be able to repay the loan and complete my children’s education,” said Rajan, sitting on a plastic stool outside his shop.

“I can only buy a ticket to Kuwait if the Kuwait government app displays a green signal.”

(This story was not edited by The Bharat Express News on Social Platforms.)