Foreign citizens seek US-approved snaps as travel resumes

Pfizer via AP

This photo shows children’s doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Puurs, Belgium.

BUDAPEST, Hungary – As COVID-19 ravaged Hungary in April, Budapest resident Akos Sipos received his second dose of the vaccine, believing he was doing the right thing for his own health and to help put end to the pandemic.

But Sipos, 46, quickly discovered that the vaccine he had received, the Russian Sputnik V, was preventing him from traveling to a number of other countries where it had not been approved. Countries include the United States, which is moving forward with a new air transport policy that will make Sipos and many like him ineligible.

“I thought it was better to get Sputnik today than a Western vaccine at an uncertain future time,” Sipos, who works as a search engine optimization specialist, said of his initial decision. to receive the vaccine. “But I couldn’t have known at this time that I couldn’t travel with Sputnik.

Starting Monday, the United States plans to reopen to foreign travelers fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. But there’s a catch: Non-immigrant adults must have received vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration or that have been given an emergency use list from the World Health Organization.

This leaves many hopeful travelers across the globe who have taken full courses of vaccines widely used in other parts of the world – Sputnik V and the CanSino jab produced in China, in particular – scramble to get re-inoculated. with vaccines approved by US authorities.

Two other Chinese vaccines, Sinopharm and Sinovac, have been approved by the WHO and will therefore be accepted for travel to the United States

Mexico received nearly 12 million doses of CanSino and nearly 20 million Sputnik V after shipments began earlier this year. Residents who have received the required two injections of these vaccines are now looking to supplement injections of the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, hoping this will make them eligible to cross the border.

“They fucked those of us who received this vaccine,” said Rosenda Ruiz, 52, public relations manager in Mexico City who received Sputnik V. “There are a lot of Mexicans who want to travel, but we don’t can’t I think I get any other vaccine I can get.

Although Sputnik V is used in around 70 countries around the world, it still has not been approved by the FDA or the United Nations health agency. Almost a million people have received the vaccine in Hungary, a central European country of around 10 million.

Hungary was one of only two countries in the European Union of 27 to deploy the Russian vaccine. Less than 20,000 people received it in Slovakia.

Judit Molnar, president of the Association of Hungarian Travel Agencies, said the number of Hungarians unable to travel to the United States – or even some EU countries that do not accept the jab – has had a effect on its industry.

“We are finding that over the last few months travelers are asking us more and more when they can travel to America,” said Molnar, who is also president of the travel agency OTP.

“These travelers say they really hope the situation will change and the United States will accept the Sputnik vaccine. There are a lot of people who would like to travel and in Hungary a lot of people have been vaccinated with Sputnik,” he said. she declared.

Citizens of Russia, where Sputnik V is used most widely, also seek Western-approved snapshots so that they can travel abroad. Faced with the prospect of being denied flights, the Russians booked trips to Serbia, which allowed the use of Pfizer-BioNTech, Chinese Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines in addition to Sputnik V.

Russia, which unveiled Sputnik V with great fanfare as the world’s first registered vaccine in August 2020, has criticized the US plan to remove the vaccine from its list of approved vaccines.

“There is exactly no reason for such decisions,” Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the foreign relations committee of the Russian Duma, or lower house of parliament. “The efficacy and safety of the Sputnik V vaccine has been proven not only by specialists, but also by its practical application.

But the World Health Organization is still reviewing the vaccine, and months of delay leave it unclear when Sputnik V might receive an emergency use list.

The Hungarian government has bilateral agreements with 24 countries – including Russia, Serbia, Mongolia, Georgia and Kazakhstan – on mutual recognition of proof of vaccination, regardless of the type of vaccine.

Hungary’s Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press it was open to a similar deal with the United States, but “currently there are no negotiations underway.”

Sipos, the search engine specialist, said that while he was confident in the effectiveness of Sputnik V, he recently sought a Western-approved recall Moderna so he could travel wherever he wanted.

“I felt cheated because they accept Sputnik in over 60 countries around the world, but not in tons of other countries,” he said.

Silvia Morales, 38, a teacher at a public high school in Monterrey, Mexico, said she recently received an injection of Moderna after learning that the US government would not recognize her CanSino vaccine.

She said she “needed to have peace of mind” about her level of protection against the virus.

“But I also love to travel to the United States,” she said.

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