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Calling The Shots: Students and Vaccine Passports

No tequila - university students will be taking a different kind of shot as this summer begins. The pressure is on for schools to return in-person as soon as possible, and vaccine passports may be one of the only ways of doing this.

Schools around the world already require proof of inoculation for diseases like polio, measles, and mumps, but what happens when COVID-19 is added to the list? What are vaccine passports, what do you need to know, and how can you keep international students in the loop?

What is a Vaccine Passport?

“Vaccine passports” are new to the headlines, but they aren’t a new concept. Vaccine passports are official proof of inoculation against easily-transmissible illnesses, often required for travel. It's already common practice for schools to require students be vaccinated for viruses that spread easily on campus with students providing their vaccination history as part of their enrollment process.

Universities schools in America already requiring COVID-19 vaccine passports for Fall 2021 include Yale, Duke, Brown, Rutgers, and Cornell.

Survey Says: What Do Students Think?

IDP Connect surveyed over 6,000 students from more than 57 countries planning to study abroad: 75% expect to begin their studies as planned, 39% were likely to switch destinations if it meant in-person learning sooner, and 30% would do so even if it meant giving up scholarship money.

Vaccine requirements aren’t deterring international students. In the same survey, 55% of international students said they planned to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible; only 6% said they would hold off on international study plans until vaccine passports were no longer required.

Vaccines in China

Uneven access to vaccines means Chinese students can’t get a destination-approved jab at home.

In good news for Chinese students and campuses, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially authorized China’s Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use on May 7th. In response, several leading American universities, said they won’t require students who have received the Sinopharm shot to receive another vaccine after arrival.

However, China’s CoronaVac vaccine has not been given the WHO’s seal of approval, although more than 260 million people have received a dose. Sinopharm and Sinovac’s vaccines account for the bulk of shots given in China: more than 45 countries have already approved their use and the European Union’s drug regulator has it under review.

The CDC has said students arriving with un-approved vaccines can be re-vaccinated, but uncertainty about revaccination is "probably the biggest concern" among students, said a Chinese student at UC Berkeley.

Which Countries Offer Vaccine Eligibility for International Students?

International students without access to approved inoculations might be able to rest easy - major destination countries, including Canada, Australia, the USA, New Zealand, the UK, and Ireland have included international students in their vaccine eligibility programs, allowing students to arrive on campus as long as they provide proof of vaccination within a few weeks of landing.

COVID and Chinese Students: What Schools Can Do

Local students may be familiar with COVID protocols and vaccine options, but international students may have difficulty accessing resources. Here’s how to make sure Chinese students arrive on campus feeling prepared and confident:

Give students availability and safety information - what vaccines are available, how effective they are, what the timeline is, and what they can expect after their appointments.

Help students navigate their vaccination process. Build vaccine appointments into orientation or arrival activities, and assist with locating vaccination sites, medical insurance, and transportation.

Keep students updated on changing guidelines, from contact tracing to the latest mask guidelines.

Expand on-campus medical capacity to include COVID-19 related care.

Student Communication: What Recruiters Can Do

Ensure students know you don’t just require proof of vaccination, but that your campus is equipped to support them through the process. This will make international students, especially incoming freshmen, feel welcome and optimistic about their arrival in a new country - already a nerve-wracking experience at the best of times.

Take the guesswork out of the vaccination experience. Potential student concerns to keep in mind include:

• How quickly can I get a vaccine?

• Is there a clinic on campus, or will the school help me find one?

• How will rules around masking and social distancing change before, after, and between doses?

• If I’ve received a vaccine that isn’t WHO-approved, can I get another one?

Getting The Message Across

• Continually update school and International Student Services pages with information about vaccine eligibility and availability.

• Ensure your social media channels reflect your official webpages, especially country-specific channels like WeChat. Information in Chinese is best, but that can be challenging - we can help.

• eduFair has a dedicated COVID-19 information center with updates directly from schools. Do you want to share pandemic information with students across China? Log in or send us a message. We can help you publish a free Chinese translation!

Not on eduFair? Join our free online community for students and schools here.



eduFair China is a free online platform dedicated to international education and recruitment. Its platform connects millions of Chinese students with first-hand information while helping institutions recruit qualified students digitally. eduFair aims to give students a more empowered, holistic approach to international education so that they can succeed during their journey abroad.



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