Appeal to allow ex-pats vaccinated with WHO-approved jabs unfettered entry to State

Minister says issue under consideration but ‘I have no answer today’

A health worker prepares a dose of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine during mass vaccination in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on Monday.  Photograph: Hotli Simanjuntak/EPA

A health worker prepares a dose of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine during mass vaccination in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on Monday. Photograph: Hotli Simanjuntak/EPA

 

A renewed appeal has been made for the State to assist Irish citizens living abroad who want to return home but have received a vaccine not accepted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said there were a number of vaccines which have been approved by the World Health Organisation but not accepted by the EMA including the Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines, as well as the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in India.

Mr Byrne said “this is particularly a problem for Irish citizens working, generally as teachers, engineers or other professionals, in the Middle East and other parts of the world”, who would have to do mandatory hotel quarantine on arrival in the State.

He pointed out that for the digital travel cert scheme a number of EU states accept the alternative vaccines.

“Spain, for example, will accept all EMA-approved vaccines and those approved by the World Health Organisation to meet the criteria for entry, which gives a total of eight vaccines overall.

“Greece and Estonia, then, will accept the vaccines which are recognised in the country of departure.” He added that this means they are able to bring back from Dubai people who have received vaccinations other than those approved by the EMA.

Highlighting the concerns for Irish people, Mr Byrne said “these people’s employers arranged for them to get these vaccines very early during the global vaccination process and this is now a difficulty for those people in returning home because Ireland only recognises the EMA-approved vaccines.”

The Wexford Senator said it is also “a crucial issue for our higher education institutions” as “it is essential that we start to see international students coming back here”.

He added that “obviously a lot of these international students will have received vaccines. I am particularly thinking about students who may be coming here from China or other parts of Asia. They will have received other vaccines. It will be challenging if we as an authority do not provide clarity to them on the situation.”

Minister of State for Health Frankie Feighan said he had received correspondence about the issue “which I have passed up the line”.

He said the Government is conscious of what other EU member states are doing and the issues involved and “they are being examined in the Department of Health.”

But he said “I have no answer for the Senator today but it is appreciated that it is an issue that, hopefully, can be addressed”.