How Will Colleges Require Vaccines for International Students?

How Will Colleges Require Vaccines for International Students?
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By Jessica Bryant

Published on July 30, 2021

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As schools across the country prepare to welcome students back on campus, questions have emerged about vaccine mandates for international students. Currently, more than 500 colleges and universities require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before coming back to campus this fall.

Vaccine mandates on college campuses are nothing new. Most schools already require that all on-campus students be vaccinated against a number of viral diseases, including measles, mumps, and rubella. But when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, the requirements — particularly for international students — are less clear.

Access to Vaccines Varies

Most schools that have issued vaccine mandates will accept any vaccines that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use. This includes the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and the AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and Sinovac vaccines.

While FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are widely available throughout the U.S., international access to vaccines varies. A majority of African countries have had less than 5% of their populations vaccinated. Many Middle Eastern countries, nearly half of all Central American countries, and several South American countries have had less than 10% of their populations vaccinated.

Many countries only or primarily have access to vaccines that are not approved by the FDA or WHO.

Many countries only or primarily have access to vaccines that are not approved by the FDA or WHO. If students have been partially or fully vaccinated by an unauthorized vaccine, they could still be required to quarantine until receiving a full dosage of an authorized one. Data is currently unclear, however, about the safety and efficacy of mixing multiple vaccines.

On-Campus Solutions for International Students

Numerous colleges and universities now have quarantine housing set aside for students who either test positive, have had exposure to COVID-19, or must quarantine due to international travel. International students who are expected to quarantine until two weeks after their final dose of an authorized vaccine will most likely do so in this type of housing.

During the 2019-20 academic year, international students made up about 5.5% of enrolled students in the U.S.

During the 2019-20 academic year, international students made up about 5.5% of enrolled students in the U.S. Historically, they have always accounted for less than 6% of all enrolled students.

With such small figures, it could make sense for schools to address vaccine concerns on an individual basis. Schools that welcome large international populations, however, may have to implement broader guidelines.

Schools and Students Will Need to Adapt

Each school will have its own quarantine policies, vaccination requirements, and instructions that on-campus students must follow prior to arrival. Students who are unsure what policies they will need to follow should contact their schools immediately to make sure they are prepared for the fall semester.

For now, many colleges are still working out how to address vaccine concerns and keep their communities safe. There are no clear answers, but the key, according to on-campus health experts, is being flexible and learning to adapt.

To see which U.S. colleges and universities require the COVID-19 vaccine, visit our complete list.


Feature Image: Andriy Onufriyenko / Moment / Getty Images

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