Only vaccines already approved by the European Medicines Agency are currently accepted on the “health pass” of the 27. The Covishield vaccine is not included in this list and this clarification has triggered misunderstanding and doubts among African populations.
It all started when the French diplomatic representations in Africa published, a few days ago, the modalities for reopening the French borders. Since June 9, fully vaccinated people only have to present a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old to travel to France, but only with a vaccine recognized by the European Medicines Agency.
In their press releases, the French embassies write that “the Covishield vaccine is not recognized by the European health authorities at this stage”.
In the French-speaking countries of the continent, doubts are being raised. This is because this vaccine is the one that is mostly distributed in Africa, via the Covax system, managed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
And it is in Madagascar that the controversy has gained the most momentum. On May 8, the country received 250,000 doses of Covishield vaccine with great fanfare.
“When the vaccine was received, representatives of the international community were present at Ivato airport in Antananarivo, including representatives of the European Union, to encourage people to be vaccinated,” says Emée Ratsimbazafy, vice-president of KMF-CNOE-Éducation des citoyens, a Malagasy civil society association. “And then, all of a sudden, we learn that this vaccine is not recognized by the European health authorities. Why not? Many people are now wondering if this vaccine is really harmless and effective. “According to her, some people are now reluctant to be vaccinated.
The Malagasy Minister of Health, Professor Jean-Louis Rakotovao-Hanitrala, said he was “surprised and shocked”. “This vaccine was given to us by the WHO and welcomed by the European Union and all the UN agencies,” he was quoted as saying in the local press. The fact that it has not been validated “makes us wonder if there isn’t one vaccine for Africans and another for Europeans.
Since then, one press release after another has tried to reassure public opinion, while false information and rumors, especially on social networks, are already compromising, to some extent, vaccination campaigns on the continent.
The United States, through its embassy, but also the representatives of the United Nations and the WHO reaffirm their support for Covishield.