Milan, Italy – When Duccio Armenise, an Italian, decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Russia, the only vaccine he was able to receive was Sputnik.
“We were in the middle of an outbreak, and I had seen what COVID had done to a few friends, so I was really scared,” he told Al Jazeera. “I didn’t want to face COVID without antibodies, so I got the shots. “
He expected problems once back in Italy, as Sputnik was not in use in the European Union, “but I was convinced that when I returned they would be resolved.”
But months later, Sputnik is Still to receive approval by the World Health Organization (WHO), it is still being evaluated by the European Union, and Italy will not issue a green pass to anyone who has been vaccinated in Russia .
Now in Italy, without the vaccine pass, Armenise cannot enter the work offices, the cafes and restaurants where he held meetings, and the swimming pools that help him treat his chronic pain.
He’s trapped in vaccine limbo.
Because of the risks to his health, he can no longer be injected with a licensed vaccine and the two options available to him are beyond his reach.
He could get tested for COVID every three days to receive a Green Pass, but he would have to pay 15 euros ($ 17) for each test – a cost of 150 euros (174 euros) per month.
Or he could get the pass if he got infected with COVID and recovered.
“There is still no timetable or guidelines for people in my situation,” he said.
“Vaccinated but not recognized”
France was the first country in Europe to use its health pass to restrict access to public places, when it announced in July that people would need a certificate to enter bars, restaurants, bars and restaurants. trains and planes.
The goal was to get people to get vaccinated, and despite the protests that followed, millions of people did.
Italy copied the measure, but went further.
Since August, his Green Pass is mandatory to access restaurants, cultural venues, sports halls, sporting events and conferences. From September, this was extended to enter planes, ships, trains and buses, as well as universities. From October 15, workers will have to present their vaccination card to enter the workplace.
There is no official data on the number of people unable to obtain green passes due to the unapproved shots they received, but some experts, even within government departments, estimate that around 100 000 people are in this situation, according to the Republic.
Al Jazeera interviewed people who took Sputnik from Russia, Sinopharm from China and Soberana from Cuba.
A scientist, who requested anonymity, was vaccinated with Soberana and said he will not be able to access his research facilities.
Fashion student Jacopo Montanari, who took the Sputnik jab, said: “For my specific course, it would be almost impossible to take courses online.
“Even during the lockdown, we were allowed to go to school. It is almost impossible to do this job only online.
Some stay abroad, where they have been vaccinated, and worry about returning home.
Luca Franzoi received the jab from Sinopharm while working in the UAE.
When he traveled to Italy earlier this year, he couldn’t get a Green Pass and had to pay for tests to perform regular activities, like going to the movies.
“I understand the reasons behind the standards, [but] I have the impression that my case was not even taken into consideration, ”he said. “I don’t think I’m the only one in this situation: vaccinated but not recognized as such and unable to get vaccinated in my own country.
Back in the United Arab Emirates, he wondered what would happen when he returned home for winter vacation.
He claimed the government is not helping, having twice tried to contact health authorities in Italy – and yet to receive no response.
“Both times I received an email confirming receipt, informing me that it had been sent to the appropriate office, and both times I received no further response. “
“A violation of fundamental rights”
Others who tried to find answers said they encountered a bureaucratic maze, with local health officials directing them to national hotlines and national governments pointing to continental health agencies.
A source at the European Commission told Al Jazeera that Italy is allowed – although not required – to recognize vaccines that are not approved by the European Union.
“I think the situation that Italians are currently facing is essentially a choice of Italy to go this route, and not the choice of the European Union,” said Camino Mortera-Martinez, a lawyer who studies the Green. Pass and freedom. movement at the Center for European Reform in Brussels.
Al Jazeera has repeatedly contacted Italy’s Health Ministry for comment, but at the time of publication those requests have gone unanswered.
“I think this is a blatant violation of fundamental rights,” Mortera-Martinez said, barring people from entering universities and workplaces.
“But we have seen so many human rights violations throughout the pandemic,” she added, referring to those who have been barred from entering their countries because they were not vaccinated.
Despite controversies, court challenges and protests, more and more countries are using green passes.
Last month, Slovenia started requiring people to use the pass in public places like hospitals, shopping malls, restaurants and gas stations, as well as in public and private workplaces.
Today Austria would consider this measure.
“I see this is becoming more and more popular since France broke the taboo,” Camino said, adding that the strategy could be dangerous in the wrong hands.
“It’s perfect for authoritarian governments,” she said. “They can say, ‘We haven’t reached enough vaccinations, so let’s introduce more measures to control people,’ which is really not a good thing.”