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US: clarification sought on vaccines

US higher education associations are appealing to the government to allow international students and scholars in countries where World Health Organization-approved Covid vaccines are not widely available to be able to arrive in the US.

Organisations are concerned that unvaccinated travellers will be barred from entering the country under the new policy. Photo: pexels

Those who have completed a vaccination program with a vaccine not authorised by WHO are considered unvaccinated by some institutions

From November 8, the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that international arrivals who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be permitted to enter the country.

However, there are concerns that “such a broad” policy will impact students and scholars arriving from countries where approved vaccines are not widely available. The organisations also call for students to have access to vaccines on arrival.

Writing to the White House and CDC, 38 organisations joined the American Council on Education to urge authorities to clarify regulations.

“While we applaud the new policy for allowing more flexibility for international travellers and support the efforts to require vaccinations, we remain concerned that such a broad policy will impact some international students and scholars traveling from countries where vaccines are not widely available,” the letter noted.

A National Interest Exemption has previously allowed arrivals on F-1 or J-1 visas to join programs during the coronavirus pandemic, while travel restrictions barred entry to others.

“We respectfully ask that you work with the higher education community as you develop this new policy”

The organisations are concerned that unvaccinated travellers will be barred from entering the country under the new policy. Authorities need to clarify whether exceptions will allow students and scholars to arrive, they suggested.

“We respectfully ask that you work with the higher education community as you develop this new policy, to ensure that international students and scholars from countries with limited access to US and WHO-approved vaccines are not limited in their ability to travel to the US for their studies and research, and are allowed to receive the vaccination upon their arrival in the US,” the letter added.

Speaking at The PIE Live, Joann Ng Hartmann senior director for international enrollment management-international student and scholar services and volunteer engagement at NAFSA said the sector is “slowly trying to understand the rollout plan of the requirement for all travellers to enter the US”.

Schools such as Princeton and Yale are currently requiring students who are unable to obtain a Food and Drug Administration- or WHO-authorised vaccines before leaving home, to receive an approved vaccine on arrival in the US.

Other schools such as American University in Washington DC have said that those who have completed vaccination programs with vaccines not authorised by WHO are considered unvaccinated. They will require a vaccination series authorised by the FDA in the US.

ACE previously warned that the lack of a federal mandate and states passing their own legislation on vaccinations made it “very confusing” for international students.

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