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Australia clears Coveshield, China’s Sinovac before opening of borders

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Covishield is the name of the AstraZeneca Plc shot made by Serum Institute of India (File)

Australia recognized China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd COVID-19 shot and India-made AstraZeneca plc jabs, paving the way for foreign travelers and fee-paying foreign students who have received the vaccinations to enter the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that the country’s top drug regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, said the shots must be “recognized vaccines” in order to vaccinate incoming travelers.

Australia is starting to open up some of the world’s most intense pandemic border restrictions as the countrywide vaccination rate tops the 80% threshold. Beijing-based Sinovac’s recognition of the shot, which has been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, contrasts with the UK and neighboring New Zealand, which have not yet endorsed it.

Several European countries have said they will accept the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, as part of vaccine entry programmes. The US made a similar signal when it announced last week plans to open entry to most vaccinated foreigners.

Friday’s announcement potentially opens the door for thousands of foreign students who have been forced out of Australia during the pandemic. International education is an attractive source of revenue for the country, worth $14.6 billion ($11 billion) for the state of New South Wales alone in 2019.

“Very soon, we will be able to reopen those international borders,” Morrison told reporters. “It will start happening from next month.”

Vaccines made by Sinovac and state-owned Sinopharm are the most widely used in China, and have an efficacy rate of around 50% to 80% in preventing symptomatic COVID, lower than mRNA vaccines developed from US Sinovac. The most deployed COVID shots globally, are used from Indonesia to Brazil and Turkey. Chile said earlier this week it would begin giving it to children between the ages of six and 11.

CoveShield, also recognized Friday, is the name of an AstraZeneca plc shot made by Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker.

According to the Government of New South Wales, more than 57,000 students are estimated to be overseas. According to the Australian Department of Business, Chinese nationals are Australia’s largest source of international students, followed by India, Nepal and Vietnam.

Friday’s decision could also be seen as a possible olive branch of Australia, which has been on the receiving end of criticism and trade blockades from China as it called for a global probe into the origins of the coronavirus.

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