The Irish government has been asked to re-examine a policy that requires travellers who have received a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine to stay in mandatory hotel quarantine.
Thousands of Irish people are inoculated with vaccines that are not cleared by European regulators, such as the Sinopharm and Sinovac shots, but are approved by the World Health Organisation.
Ireland currently imposes a mandatory hotel quarantine of up to 12 nights on passengers arriving from designated countries. But rules state that fully vaccinated travellers who have received shots approved by the European Medicines Agency are exempt from hotel quarantine.
A large number of Irish expats, many of whom work abroad as teachers and nurses, are inoculated with non-EMA-approved shots and cannot afford to quarantine.
Only four Covid-19 vaccines, those produced by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Janssen, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are EMA-approved.
Ireland's Minister of State for Diaspora Colm Brophy is examining the issue that he says could be creating an “unnecessary roadblock” for citizens living abroad. Government ministers have been petitioned by expats who want the regulations relaxed.
Mr Brophy said he had written to the country's Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly requesting a review of the policy, the Irish Times reported.
“[The Chinese vaccine] has been approved by the WHO, it’s on par with western vaccines and the rollout on an international level is in the same millions as the vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical companies that we are using,” Mr Brophy said.
“I think in terms of reopening travel and movement, we are going to have to recognise vaccines that the WHO recognises. I don’t think we should put an unnecessary roadblock in their way.”
China's state-backed Sinopharm vaccine was approved by the WHO on May 7, while Sinovac was authorised by the global health body this month. They are among the eight vaccines to have been given emergency use approval by the WHO.
China has distributed hundreds of millions of doses of Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines domestically and overseas, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.