African Union criticises EU digital COVID-19 certificate for inequalities in access

The African Union Commission and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) issued a statement that noted their concern on recent communications regarding the applicability of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, Green Pass, to different COVID-19 vaccines.  The current applicability guidelines threaten the equitable treatment of persons having received their vaccines in countries profiting from the COVAX Facility, which is supported by the EU. The majority of African Union (AU)  member states are receiving COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX programme. 

The statement points out that the granting of a Green Pass only applies to vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorisation. Therefore, while AstraZeneca vaccine produced and authorised in Europe is included, the same formation of the vaccine (Covishield) produced by the Serum Institute of India is not. Under this regulation, persons who have received Covishield vaccines would continue to be subject to public health restrictions, including limitations of movement and testing requirements. 

Furthermore, the statement emphasises that these restrictions are concerning given that the Covishield vaccine has been the backbone of the EU-backed COVAX contributions to the AU member states’ vaccination campaigns. Moreover, since the expressed goal for the Serum Institute of India production is to serve India and lower-income countries, the institute may not apply for EU-wide market authorisation, thereby making the inequalities in access to Green Pass created by this approach indefinitely in place.