U.S. Universities Will Require Some International Students to be Re-Vaccinated

The push to vaccinate students against the COVID-19 virus before returning to U.S. colleges and universities ahead of the fall, 2021 semester is in full swing. However, for some international students, the vaccines they’ve already received may not be enough. According to the New York Times, over 400 U.S. colleges and universities have recently announced that students who have been vaccinated with India’s Covaxin, or Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will need to be re-vaccinated before returning to classes this fall. This is due to the fact that neither of these vaccines has yet been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The requirement for re-vaccination may present a challenge for the approximately 200,000 students from India who attend American colleges annually. While American students have access to WHO-approved vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer, it is more difficult for Indian students to obtain a vaccine that is accepted by American campuses.

According to the WHO, anyone vaccinated outside the U.S. by a vaccine not yet approved by the WHO should wait a minimum of 28 days before receiving their first dose of a WHO-approved vaccine. To help meet the logistical challenges of this, at least six Indian regional governments have announced in the past week that they will open emergency clinics to vaccinate, or re-vaccinate students going to U.S. colleges and universities, according to the Deccan Chronicle.

Some students who have already received the Covaxin or Sputnik V vaccine are understandably concerned about receiving a different vaccine in order to attend school in the U.S. One of the primary sources of this concern is due to the fact that, according to the WHO, no data exists regarding the safety of combining two different vaccines.

Another source of frustration for international students planning to study in the U.S. this fall is the uncertainty of how their school is handling vaccinations. For example, at Columbia University in New York City, international students will be required to present either their WHO booklet, or a doctor’s letter confirming they have received a WHO-approved vaccine. However, many other schools are much vaguer in their communications, only stating that they plan to accommodate students undergoing the vaccination process.

In the meantime, universities throughout the United States are working overtime fielding inquiries from international students. Though most students are hopeful to receive clear guidance from their school regarding COVID-19 vaccination requirements soon, they would be prudent to contact their universities well ahead of the fall semester to ensure they have the proper inoculations.

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