The World Health Organization is holding discussions with the European Union’s medical regulator to include Covishield in its vaccine passport programme, the global health agency’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan told NDTV on Thursday.

The programme allows those who have been inoculated with shots recognised by the European Union to travel in and out of Europe hassle-free. These include the shots manufactured by BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV.

The Serum Institute manufactures the AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine in India under the name Covishield.

Swaminathan told NDTV that the WHO didn’t promote the idea of vaccine passports. “Everyone around the world doesn’t have equal access to vaccines and therefore using that as a passport to travel or trade could be discriminatory,” she said. Despite that, many countries were introducing such documents to make travel easier, she added.

“We are now discussing with the European Union the issue of including Covishield [in the vaccine passport] because it is exactly the same as AstraZeneca vaccine that is manufactured and marketed in Europe,” she told NDTV. “We understand that EU has left it to individual member states to recognise all vaccines that have received emergency-use listing by WHO and that obviously includes Covishield.”

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Swaminathan told the news channel that the WHO has urged the European Union to include all vaccines approved by it in its vaccine passport programme. “I have heard that a number of European countries have decided they would include Covishield in the list that they approve, and I hope all the countries will do that,” she added.

Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Estonia and Switzerland are the nine European countries that have reportedly cleared Covishield, according to PTI.

On Wednesday, India had urged member states of the European Union to recognise both Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for the travel passports, according to PTI. The Ministry of External Affairs reportedly said that it won’t accept the bloc’s vaccine certificates unless it recognises Covishield and Covaxin.

The European Union’s digital vaccine certificate, also known as a “green pass” came into effect from Thursday, according to the news agency.

Last month, the European Union had said that its drug regulator did not receive a request to approve Covishield for the bloc’s Covid-19 vaccination passport programme.

Delta plus variant

Swaminathan told NDTV that the Delta plus strain of Covid-19 was not a variant of concern for the global health agency presently as the number of cases of the strain were still low.

During her interview to NDTV, she also said that the WHO was likely to make its decision on granting approval to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin by the second week of August.