Authorities in Malta have amended their travel advice after confusion over a batch of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine blocked some UK travellers from entering the country, the Transport Secretary has said.
Grant Shapps had said the Government would confront Malta earlier on Wednesday after reports it was turning away people vaccinated with the Indian-made jab.
The problem centred on doses made by the Serum Institute of India, known as Covishield.
Despite the jab being the same as other AstraZeneca vaccines, it has not been authorised by Europe’s regulator and is therefore not recognised by the EU.
Mr Shapps later tweeted: “The Maltese authorities have amended their travel advice so anyone who has an Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK (regardless of manufacture location) is able to travel without being turned away – with all vaccines having gone through rigorous safety and quality checks.”
Matthew White, a naturalised Maltese resident originally from the UK, said he was “very grateful” the change had been made but added that it was “about time”.
Malta requires travellers to have had two jabs, but over the weekend the 50-year-old noticed a notification on Malta International Airport’s website stating that three doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would not be accepted – including his own Covishield jab.
Responding to Mr Shapps’s update, Mr White said: “It is about time he answered. I have been tagging him and the so-called vaccines minister (on Twitter) for days.
“We are very grateful to the Maltese authorities for their change of heart on this as this will enable us to return safely home.
“We fully support the strategy of double-vaccination entry only to help protect our beautiful islands and people from the ongoing pandemic.”
Before the update, Mr White had said it was “heartbreaking” waiting to discover whether he could return home to the island with his partner, describing the original policy as “an outrage and totally discriminatory”.
Facing the same issue, Steve and Glenda Hardy, 64 and 63, were turned back at Manchester airport at 3.30am on Friday when they tried to board a flight to Malta, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast: “The (UK) medicines agency, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, have been very clear that it doesn’t matter whether the AstraZeneca you have is made here or the Serum Institute in India.
“It is absolutely the same product, it provides exactly the same levels of protection from the virus.”