Many universities across the USA announced fresh restrictions including mandatory
vaccination for all its students using WHO approved vaccines. This move put thousands
of Indian students intending to pursue higher studies abroad in a fix, as two of India’s
three available vaccines- Covaxin and Sputnik V are yet to be approved by WHO. Most
Indian students have completed their 4 weeks long two dose vaccinations with Covaxin
due to ease of availability, but revaccination seems to be their only option left.
As US bound students gear up for August applications, the health concerns of
revaccination are widely debated in the nation. In addition to this, the time gap of 84
days mandated by the Indian government for Covishield worsens the situation. This has
caused significant delay in US student visa applications. Kaushik, a 25-year-old student
had to get revaccinated due to his universities policies, he said that he is worried about
the health complications and his visa application, he goes on to say that the move to
make vaccination proofs mandatory in universities brings to light their lack of
acknowledgement of the vaccine disparity faced by students from developing countries.
Vaccinating students who are going abroad have been adopted as a national interest by
the Indian government. Policies that promote priority registration for international
students have been introduced in Kerala, Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka, Gujarat,
and Andhra Pradesh. Owing to the difficulties in booking vaccination slots on the
national portal, special drives aimed at inoculating students have been welcomed
positively. A senior American diplomat assured Indian students that the top priority of the US
mission in India is to ensure their legitimate travel by processing as many student visa
applicants as possible within July and August. Both nations have kept the health and
wellness of students as their top priority as local pandemic conditions change over time.
A lack of centralized policy within the educational system of the US has resulted in
varied vaccination policies in individual schools across the nation. The education
system remains out of the control of the federal government which has proved to be exceptionally difficult during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The diplomat stated
that no National Interest Exception as (NIE) demanded by the US government is
applicable in cases of students returning to the nation 30 days prior to academic
programs that are scheduled to resume after August 1. The National Interest Exceptions
(NIE) allows travel to the US for persons whose entry is considered of national interest.
The Minister of Consular Affairs at the US embassy, Mr. Heflin confirmed that proof of
COVID-19 vaccination will not be mandatory for US bound students while stating that a
negative test report for COVID-19 within a 72-hour time frame would be enough to enter
the country. “While proof of vaccination is not required to enter the United States,
individual schools or institutions may set their own requirements. The US education
system operates independently from the federal government, and students should
consult closely with their host institution to ensure compliance with individual
vaccination requirements” Mr. Heflin added.