AURORA SHPATAJ

Citizens traveling abroad are required to provide the Covid vaccination card. This is complicated for Albanians because the majority have received vaccines that are yet to be approved by international bodies, such as EMA and the FDA. Thus far, Italy, Germany, and several other countries have recognized Albanian vaccination cards only for the Pfizer Biontech, Astra Zeneca, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson vaccines. According to health experts, this situation requires diplomatic clarification. Whereas, as regards individuals vaccinated with internationally unauthorized vaccines, this ‘penalty’ was foreseen by them months ago.

The Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently announced Italy’s recognition of the vaccination cards issued by Albania, but only for the EMA-authorized vaccines: Pfizer Biotech, Moderna, Astra Zeneca, Jonhson&Johnson.

Screenshot of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ post, August 31, 2021

This announcement is good news for those traveling to Italy who have been vaccinated with any of the EMA-approved vaccines.

Screenshot of the Albanian card of a double-vaccinated citizen on E-albania.

“Faktoje” addressed a request for information to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 31, inquiring about the European countries that recognize vaccines administered in Albania. The same request was also addressed to the Ministry of Health.

Request addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, August 31, 2021

“Faktoje” is still awaiting the official replies of the two aforementioned institutions. We also addressed several questions regarding the recognition of Covid vaccination to various diplomatic bodies in Tirana, namely the Netherlands, Italian, British, Polish, Czech, Portuguese, Lithuanian, and Maltese Embassies.

Request for information addressed to the embassies

Thus far, “Faktoje” has received replies from the Maltese, Netherlands, and Czech Embassies.

The Embassy of Maltasuggested that we refer to the official website of the Maltese Ministry of Health, according to which, the vaccination card is valid when the vaccines are those recognized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for a full course of vaccination with the Pfizer, Moderna, Astra Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson vaccines (2 doses or 1 dose of a single dose vaccine).

Screenshot of the Embassy of Malta’s website including also Albania as one of the countries with recognized vaccination cards.

The Netherlands Embassy provided a similar reply.

“For traveling to the Netherlands, a number of requirements are in place regarding proof of vaccination. One of the requirements is that the vaccination proof has been issued following vaccination with a vaccine that has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or is on the Emergency Use Listing of the World Health Organization (WHO).”- the Embassy’s reply states.

 Screenshot of the Netherlands Embassy’s reply.

The Czech Embassy’s reply states:

“The Albanian vaccination certificate is not yet recognized by the Czech Republic, but it is in the process and we hope that it will be recognized soon.”

Screenshot of the reply of the Czech Republic Embassy.

During a search on the official website of the German Embassy in Tirana, it results that Germany recognizes Covid vaccines administered in Albania, but only those authorized by EMA and the FDA.

Experts warned about the ‘consequences’ of mass vaccination using unauthorized vaccines

The majority of vaccines administered in Albania are yet to be

approved, which may prevent many citizens from traveling to EU countries, particularly those traveling for business or study purposes.

As previously reported, the Ministry of Health confirmed that at least until mid July, there were about 625 thousand Coronavac and SputnikV doses administered (unauthorized by international health agencies) and only 330 thousand Pfizer Biontech and Astra Zeneca doses administered. What we know for certain is that the number of internationally unauthorized vaccines received by Albania is greater than the number of approved ones, despite the Ministry of Health’s claim in September 2020 that Albania would have the right to choose the safest vaccine.

Ministry of Health’s reply

The experts that “Faktoje” asked had warned several months ago about the issues that the vaccination with vaccines unauthorized by EMA or the FDA would pose.

“We had already recommended to the Ministry to not use such vaccines, mainly because they do not provide any guarantee on safety. Since they are unapproved by EMA and the FDA, and there is no safety guarantee, secondly, for administrative reasons, and thirdly, due to the unreliability of the Albanian health system, this could lead to other countries not recognizing the Albanian vaccination card” – Expert Erion Dasho explained.

Health Expert Ilir Alimehmeti argues that the issue regarding vaccine recognition is highly complex. Firstly, not all countries recognize the Albanian vaccination card, even those involving vaccines authorized by EMA and the FDA. Secondly, those who have received Coronavac or SputnikV vaccines, aside from the additional Covid testing costs when traveling abroad, also face the dilemma of how to proceed in case the host country mandates vaccination only with authorized vaccines.

“Our vaccination card may not be recognized. For example, the Council of Europe has yet to recognize it, while for North Macedonia and Turkey has done so. The responsibility for this now lies with diplomatic channels.

As regards the Sinovac, Coronavac or any vaccines for traveling abroad, this will depend on whether the destination country recognizes such vaccines. Considering that the issue mainly concerns EU countries, they currently only recognize EMA-approved vaccines, while the US recognizes only FDA-approved vaccines. Therefore, it depends on the bodies in each country. In regards to Sinovac, EMA has provided no clear answer as it is still under review, but it is not yet approved. The FDA is not reviewing it as of yet. As a result, the vaccination card for this vaccine is not recognized in these countries. Therefore, such persons will have to undergo Covid testing and then be allowed to travel if the test result is negative. In this regard, there are no suggestions for the MoH as it has no impact on whether EMA recognizes Sinovac. However, there have been open periods when Astra Zeneca was offered, so it is also up to individuals to decide for themselves.” – Mr. Alimehmeti stated.