Vaccinated but stuck: Indians await WHO approval for local shot to travel overseas


Sugathan PR, who received two doses of the Covaxin vaccine nationally developed by Bharat Biotech against coronavirus disease (COVID-19), harvests vegetables in his vegetable garden in Pandalam village, Kerala, India on October 22, 2021. REUTERS / Jose Devasia

PANDALAM, India, October 26 (Reuters) – Stranded in a village in southern India for nine months and unable to return to work in Saudi Arabia, Sugathan PR is hopeful the World Health Organization will approve India’s COVID-shot. 19 from Covaxin, paving the way back.

Like Sugathan, millions of Indians have taken Covaxin and many have complained of travel difficulties because the vaccine has not been recognized for international travel by several countries.

“I can’t continue to sit idle here any longer,” said Sugathan, 57, who returned to Pandalam village in Kerala in January to be with his family after missing his father’s funeral last year when the pandemic disrupted flights.

“I had the option to go to Saudi Arabia and take (additional doses of) Covishield after a four-day institutional quarantine, but I wasn’t sure about its implications for my health,” Sugathan said, making reference to AstraZeneca vaccine (AZN.L). .

“If the approval for Covaxin does not come, I will take the risk of going for a vaccine approved by Saudi Arabia,” he added, sitting in his spacious two-story house bordered by rice fields.

WHO is expected to take a final call on an emergency use list for Covaxin on Tuesday.

He deliberated on data provided by manufacturer Bharat Biotech since early July, but said he couldn’t “cut corners” to make a decision. Read more

Without a nod from the WHO, it is unlikely that two-dose Covaxin would be accepted as a valid vaccine around the world and would complicate travel plans for Indians who have taken it.

Rajan Pallivadakethil Unnunni, 59, who worked in Kuwait as a welder for two decades before flying to India late last year, was unable to return because Kuwait does not recognize Covaxin.

He is now struggling to repay his $ 20,000 bank loan by selling chicken at a small stall in Kerala and earning $ 4 a day.

“If I can’t return to Kuwait, I won’t be able to repay the loan and complete my children’s education,” said Rajan, sitting on a plastic stool outside his shop.

“I can only buy a ticket to Kuwait if the Kuwait government app displays a green signal.”

Written by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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