The Centre on Monday said that students and professionals going abroad for their education and jobs, and those part of the country’s Tokyo Olympics contingent will have to get their vaccination certificates linked to passports.

The health ministry also said that these beneficiaries will be eligible to take their second dose of the Covishield vaccine after a gap of 28 days, and do not need to wait for the mandated 84-day interval. The facility will be available to those belonging to these categories and going abroad till August 31.

The ministry said that the decision was taken after it received “several representations” from those whose planned travel dates fall prior to completion of the interval of 84 days.

Following the Centre’s decision in May to increase the gap between two doses of the Covishield vaccine to 12-16 weeks, Kerala had allowed those going abroad to take the second shot within four to six weeks after the first one.

The Maharashtra government also said it will conduct walk-in vaccinations for students who have received confirmation of admission in foreign universities.

On linking vaccine certificates, the Centre on Monday advised the beneficiaries to use their passports as the identity document for getting the vaccine. Their passport numbers will be printed on the vaccination certificates, the health ministry said.

However, if a beneficiary has used any other identity document for getting the first jab, the competent authority will issue another certificate linking the vaccination certificate with the passport number.

States and Union territories have been asked to verify if the 28-day gap has lapsed for such beneficiaries and whether they have the documents to prove the “genuineness of the purpose of travel.”

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had on June 4 conveyed India’s objection to the implementation of “vaccine passports” for travel to foreign countries amid the pandemic. Vardhan was speaking at a health ministers’ meeting of the G7 countries, where India was invited as a guest.

He said implementing the policy would be “highly discriminatory and disadvantageous” as the percentage of population being vaccinated was lower in developing countries when compared to developed ones.

A “vaccine passport” is a proof of vaccination against certain diseases that passengers are required to produce when they enter another country.

So far, countries have not made “vaccine passports” mandatory for Covid-19, but several European countries and airlines in the United States are encouraging travellers to upload their vaccination certificates on their online platforms, according to CNBC.

On May 14, top US virologist Anthony Fauci had said in an interview that it will be up to individual airlines in the country and not the government on whether they make vaccine certificates mandatory.

In February, the World Health Organisation had said vaccination certificates should not be made mandatory owing to “critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission” and limited availability of vaccines. The health body has not issued an update on the advisory since then.