Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

EU’s vaccine travel pass discriminates against low-income countries


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Green Pass

Mains level: Paper 2- Issues with vaccine travel policies


The introduction of Covid-19 vaccines has opened up opportunities to help revive travel. However, it is important to carefully design policies that help revive travel demand.

Vaccine certificates

  • Many countries like China and Israel have introduced vaccine certificates that ease the process of entering and travelling across the destination country for vaccinated travellers.
  • Can encourage discriminatory treatment: Though these certificates can ensure trade facilitation, they can potentially act as a trade barrier if they encourage discriminatory treatment.
  • The recent and the most contentious issue in this regard is the European Union’s “Green Pass” scheme.

Issues with European Union’s Green Pass

  • Through this vaccine certificate, the European Commission intends to remove travel restrictions such as entry bans, quarantine obligations and testing.
  • Only 4 vaccines listed: The EU has listed only four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the pass: Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty, Moderna’s Spikevax, Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.
  • It makes travellers from countries administering alternate vaccines ineligible for certification.
  • When it was launched, the policy did not even allow AstraZeneca’s Indian-manufactured vaccine, Covishield.
  • Against COVAX policy: This goes against the policy of COVAX, which has categorically stated that such measures would effectively create a two-tier system and would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most.
  • Discriminatory against low-income countries: Vaccine doses administered per 100 people is 1.4 for low-income countries as compared to 93.2 for high-income countries.
  • This makes travellers from low-income countries ineligible to avail these certificates.
  • As per estimates based on information from the WHO, countries not administering any of the EMA-approved vaccines account for at least 14 per cent of the vaccinated population.
  • These lie mostly in low and middle-income countries, including India.
  • Harms domestic sector: Nationals from many of these countries also serve in the hospitality industries in countries across the world, including Europe.
  • With this exclusion criteria, an indirect cost burden is put on their domestic service sectors that are already reeling due to the pandemic.
  • Against globalisation policy: With such discriminatory intervention, the EU policy does not go well with the globalisation policy of collective welfare.

Steps to boost vaccine production

  • Covid vaccine makers across the world have created a platform, led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, to connect with key raw material suppliers needed for boosting production.
  • In a recent declaration, WTO members have agreed to review and eliminate unnecessary existing export restrictions on essential medical goods needed to combat the pandemic.

Way forward

  • Cooperate on vaccine production: To achieve the desired goal, countries need to cooperate on vaccine production to accelerate the global vaccination process.
  • Remove restrictions and trade barriers: Accelerating global vaccine production makes lifting trade barriers on raw materials for vaccine production critical.
  • The two relevant bodies, WHO and WTO, should also work together to sort out selective criteria for international movement.


Developed countries should refrain from discriminatory international travel policies against low-income countries and focus on increasing vaccine production to close the vaccination gap at the global level.

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