Stakeholders had been concerned that only four vaccines were recognised by authorities in Australia.
“We will have to work through the priorities of Australian residents and citizens, skilled migrants and students”
There were fears students from China and India would therefore not be eligible for a recently announced pilot to bring students back to New South Wales. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has now recognised vaccines that have been most used in the key student source markets.
Some 500 international students will arrive in the state in December, according to plans.
Study NSW said the recognition of the Covid-19 vaccines is “an important change for the NSW International Student Arrivals Pilot Plan set to commence at the end of 2021, as only students who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine recognised by the TGA will be eligible to return to NSW”.
“This is to help protect the safety of the NSW community and the students themselves,” the agency said.
CEO of International Education Association of Australia, Phil Honeywood said the approval of Sinovac is a “huge step forward in having equity of access for our international students from countries where different vaccines are more dominant”.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has announced that international borders will reopen in November for Australian citizens and permanent residents. He also said students would be among priority groups.
“I think we will have to work through the priorities of Australian residents and citizens, skilled migrants and students. I think they are our priorities,” he said, while borders will open for visitors later in 2022.
For borders to be opened in November, seven-day home quarantine pilots for fully-vaccinated Australians in NSW and South Australia and 14-day quarantine pilots for unvaccinated travellers or for those with non-TGA recognised vaccines need to be successful, he added.
The recognition of the Sinovac and Covishield will be “particularly important” for those coming from India, China and other countries in south east Asia, he said.
“That will be important for the phase which I believe will be occurring next year in some states, particularly in my discussions with NSW where those students, skilled migrants – and perhaps sooner – will be able to come into the country.”
“Only international students who have had a double dose of a TGA-recognised vaccine are eligible to return to Australia”
“The TGA decision clears the way for fully vaccinated students from China and India to re-join their friends on Australian university campuses in the near future,” said Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson. “This is good news for universities and students, but also for Australia’s economic recovery.”
It also offers “fresh hope” for the more than 130,000 students who have waited patiently to return to the country to complete their studies, she continued.
“Nearly half of all international students in higher education remain outside of Australia. Around one third of our international PhD students are also offshore, anxious to return to complete their research here,” she reminded.
“It also sets Australia on a path to reverse the declines in international education that have seen the annual contribution to Australia’s bottom-line fall from $40 billion pre-Covid to less than $32bn.
“The safety of students and staff has been our guiding priority at all times. Only international students who have had a double dose of a TGA-recognised vaccine are eligible to return to Australia.
“International students make an enormous cultural and economic contribution to Australian life, and we look forward welcoming them all back. Today’s announcements are a solid step in that direction.”