The minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, Augusto Santos Silva, said this Tuesday that the model defined in Europe for the digital certificate that allows travel in the region will be applied to third countries, responding to the concerns of the African Union (AU).

the next step [face ao regulamento que entrará em vigor a 1 de julho] is to use the principles of this model for negotiations with third countries regarding the reciprocal recognition of vaccinations”, the government official replied to Lusa, when asked about the AU’s concerns that the vaccine produced in India under license from AstraZeneca, the most used in Africa, has been left out of the digital certificate.

Santos Silva was speaking during the press conference that closed the 11th ministerial meeting between the European Union and Cape Verde, this afternoon in Lisbon, which was promoted by the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). At the meeting, in a hybrid format, the Minister of State and Foreign Affairs represented the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.

The digital certificate is a regulation of the European Union, with direct application in the EU and rules that are intended to facilitate internal circulation in the Schengen Area, and the vaccine is one of the three conditions enabling this facilitation of circulation, together with immunization or negative testing “, explained the Portuguese ruler.

According to Santos Silva, “with regard to vaccination, what is planned is complete vaccination, with one or two doses, as the case may be, carried out at least 14 days before the trip and one of the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency”.

“The next step is to use the principles of this model for negotiations with third countries regarding the reciprocal recognition of vaccinations, and that is what the European Commission is already doing, namely with the United States and Switzerland, and that’s that that we will do with other countries,” said the government official, when asked about the fact that the Covishield vaccine, produced in India under a license from AstraZeneca, is left out of this process.

Portugal, he concluded, “will scrupulously apply the digital certificate within the framework of the internal circulation of the EU and will use the principles of this certificate in the reciprocal recognition of vaccinations with third countries”.

The African Union Commission and the organization’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) were concerned about the applicability of the European Union’s digital certificate, fearing the non-inclusion of vaccines inoculated in Africa.

In a statement shared on the Africa CDC portal on Monday, the two bodies said they “reported with concern the recent communications on the applicability of the EU digital certificate [União Europeia]” regarding the different vaccines against covid-19.

In the document, they welcome the certificate and “its potential to significantly facilitate safe free movement in all EU Member States and certain associated countries”, which they call “a significant step”.

“However, current applicability guidelines put at risk the equitable treatment of people who have received their vaccines in countries that benefit from the EU-supported Covax mechanism, including most AU member states [União Africana]”, warned the two regional bodies.

On Thursday, Portugal approved the decree-law regulating the EU’s covid-19 digital certificate, proof of negative testing, vaccination or recovery from the disease, which will come into force in the 27 Member States in time for the summer and which could be used for travel.

The passport only includes vaccines approved by the EMA (European Medicines Agency): Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen.

Citing European Commission documents, African regional organizations argue that the Covishield vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, with a license from AstraZeneca, is excluded from this digital certificate.

These developments are worrisome given that the Covishield vaccine has been the backbone of EU-supported Covax contributions to AU Member States’ immunization programs. Furthermore, given that the stated objective for the Serum Institute of India’s production is to serve India and lower-income countries, the SII may not apply for an EU-wide marketing authorization, which means inequalities in access to ‘green passes ‘ created”, they warned.

In this regard, the AU Commission and Africa CDC urged the EU Commission to “consider increasing access” in the case of vaccination carried out using vaccines “considered suitable for global launch through the Covax mechanism”.

The covid-19 pandemic has caused at least 3,925,816 deaths worldwide, resulting from more than 181 million cases of infection, according to a report made by the French news agency AFP.

According to the most recent data from Africa CDC, the continent totals more than 5.39 million cases of covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, surpassing 140,000 deaths.

The respiratory disease is caused by the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, detected in late 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China.

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