Admitted to foreign universities, students face the question of the Covid-19 vaccine

Bengaluru resident Anusha Hegde (name changed upon request) has been admitted to a master’s degree in finance at an American university. She was scheduled to join the fall semester, which begins in August-September 2021, but postponed her admission to the January 2022 session due to uncertainty over vaccination and travel standards. Fortunately, the university granted his request.

Sakshi Petkar (name changed) from Mumbai, who was admitted to a non-graduate liberal arts course in the US, is also worried about getting vaccinated in time for her program, given the slow pace of Covid vaccination in India for 18-44 age group.

As the fall semester approaches at universities in the US, UK and Canada, Indian students who want to fly are grappling with these questions: Is it mandatory to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before arriving? on the campus ? If so, what about those who are not yet vaccinated or who have taken Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, which is not yet approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) ? (The company has applied for WHO approval and hopes it will be obtained by July-September 2021.)

The United States and Canada have clarified that vaccination is not mandatory for travel to these destinations. “Proof of vaccination is not required to enter the United States. However, proof of a negative Covid-19 test result, taken within 72 hours of flight departure, is required for air travel to the United States,” said Nick Novak, Spokesperson, United States. Consulate General, Bombay.

Students who will begin their programs on or after August 1, 2021 may request an expedited visa appointment up to 60 days prior to the start of their program and may travel to the United States within 30 days of the program start date. their program.

It’s good news. Only there is a catch.

To be vaccinated or not

With the US education system operating independently from the federal government, universities are adopting different strategies when it comes to Covid vaccinations.

For example, Ivor Emmanuel, director of the Berkeley International Office at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, said the university is considering providing the student with an FDA-approved vaccine. Students will not have to bear the cost of the vaccine or any tests, he adds.

“International students are not required to be vaccinated before entering the United States, but are encouraged to obtain one if they can,” Emmanuel said. Trade standard. “For those who are vaccinated, the university will recognize WHO-approved vaccines… Currently, under the National Interest Exception, Indian students are eligible to travel to the United States after have obtained a visa on or after August 1 or not more than 30 days from the start of their program The challenge we are facing at the moment is that the US Embassy and Consulates in India are closed due of the latest Covid surge,” he adds.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, has meanwhile decided that every student enrolled must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. This requirement also applies to newly enrolled and ongoing MIT international students.

“MIT Medical (it serves the health needs of the MIT community) will be in contact with students who cannot access vaccines before their course/program start date,” the institution said when told contacted by Trade standard. “Most likely, they will need to be vaccinated as soon as they arrive on campus. If MIT has a vaccine (determined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), students will be able to get the vaccine for free on campus. Otherwise, students will need to register for an appointment at a pharmacy or through the state (most likely covered by MIT-sponsored insurance). Once on campus, any necessary Covid-19 testing is free,” he added.

At the Rotman School of Management in Canada, Indian students do not need to be vaccinated before landing. Vaccinated students, however, are not exempt from any entry, testing or quarantine restrictions, says Joseph Milner, the school’s associate dean for MBA programs.

“A negative molecular test (RT-PCR or similar) is required to enter Canada, or appropriate documentation indicating they have a resolved Covid-19 infection. There are additional Government of Canada requirements for all international travelers arriving, including a mandatory quarantine at a government-approved hotel, which students must meet,” Milner adds.

Which vaccine is recognized?

But what if a student was vaccinated with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which is not yet on the WHO’s Emergency Use List (EUL)?

“According to the Canadian government website, Covishield is approved in Canada while there is no information given about Covaxin, which creates a lot of confusion for Indian students seeking to apply to Canadian universities,” says Vibha Kagzi, Founder and CEO, ReachIvy.com, a Mumbai-based career consultancy. Also in the US Covaxin is not on the list of foreign country approved vaccines. In the US they also do not offer Covishield as an option so if the student has received a dose of Covishield, he will have to get the second dose in India itself or opt for a vaccine from another company, which can lead to health complications.Many universities in the United States have asked students to opt for vaccines that are licensed and approved by international agencies,” she adds.

However, universities like MIT offer exemptions in such cases. For example, international students who have previously received a vaccine not approved by the FDA simply need to document their immunization in the Covid vaccine application to the university.

Visa delays

According to consultants like Arun Jagannathan, co-founder and CEO of CrackVerbal, and Sumeet Jain, co-founder of Yocket, another major problem is visa delays.

“Students are facing visa issues with all appointments scheduled for May being canceled due to the local lockdown,” says Jagannathan. “The embassies, however, assured the students that they would leave this year as it was only an administrative delay.” Jain adds that consulates have assured that student visas will be a priority and could start moving in June as the second wave subsides in India. .

States such as Maharashtra and Telangana, meanwhile, offer free vaccination in priority to students who wish to fly. And consultants in India are advising students to contact their universities to check their vaccine needs and classroom versus distance learning options, or postpone joining until January.

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