Chinese and Indian vaccines will be recognised by the UK for the first time later this month, under changes to travel restrictions due to come into effect on November 22.
Currently Britain only allows travellers who have been double vaccinated by one of four shots approved in the UK –AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – to avoid self-isolating on arrival.
But last night the Government announced this list will be expanded to include all vaccines granted emergency use listing (EUL) by the World Health Organization, a policy already in place in the United States – which reopened its borders to vaccinated travellers this week
This means that, although the jabs are still not approved by British regulators, travellers vaccinated with two Chinese shots produced by Sinopharm and Sinovac will be able to travel to Britain without isolating as of November 22.
The same is true of those given India’s first homegrown coronavirus vaccine, developed by Bharat Biotech, which gained EUL status last week.
‘The next step in our restart of international travel’
The Sinopharm, Sinovac and Bharat vaccines have already been given to hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
Chinese companies, especially, have rapidly ramped up production of their coronavirus shots as the country has pursued an aggressive policy of “vaccine diplomacy”.
While precise figures are hard to come by, Airfinity, a health analytics firm, estimated that China had commercially exported at least 1.1 billion of these shots to 123 countries by October 8, including the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. And according to Our World in Data, 1.1 billion people have been double vaccinated in China.
There is some evidence suggesting the Chinese shots have lower effectiveness against symptomatic infection than the Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines used in the UK, although they are all highly protective against hospitalisation and death. The WHO has recommended that those over 60 who had the shot should be given a third dose to ensure ongoing protection.