In a move that may put a lot of Indian students at health risk, over 400 US based universities are asking prospective students to get revaccinated with Covishield if they have gotten vaccinated with Sputnik V or Covaxin. According to these universities neither the Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin nor the Russia-based Sputnik V vaccine are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Since March 2021, over 400 US based universities have made changes to their vaccine mandates. Now these universities will only accept prospective students who have gotten themselves vaccinated by any of the WHO approved vaccines. These vaccines include Covishield, Pfizer & Moderna. It should be noted that US has been making user of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines majorly. Thus, it is safe to assume that the new vaccine mandates are drawn keeping in mind the best interest of US based students.
As universities open their doors for international students, new vaccine mandates are making it a challenge for these students. The new vaccine mandates that are coming from US-based universities are leaving the students filled with anxiety and uncertain. Not only are these students unsure whether they would be accepted to the universities, they now have to keep in mind the new mandates.
According to the new mandate, any student that want to enroll for the Autumn semester must be inoculated with a WHO approved vaccine. This means that students who got vaccinated with the India made Covaxin or the Russian Sputnik V, will need to get re-vaccinated.
“Uncertain and anxiety inducing process”: The Story of Milloni Doshi
A New York Times report by Rukmini Callimachi gives a much clearer and grim picture of the reality. The report gives example of Milloni Doshi, an Indian student who was to start her Master’s at the prestigious Columbia University. Doshi is fully vaccinated and she was lucky enough to have gotten the slot to receive the 2 doses of Covaxin.
However, the state of her admission is unclear as the vaccine has not been approved by WHO, a mandate by the university. The 25-year-old student said how the University asked her to get revaccinated with a WHO approved vaccinated once she is at the campus. But what remains unclear is whether getting 2 vaccines is safe or not.
New York Times quoted Doshi saying-
“I am just concerned about taking two different vaccines. They said the application process would be the toughest part of the cycle, but it’s really been all of this that has been uncertain and anxiety-inducing.”
International students bring $39 billion in tuition
The Pfizer, Moderna and Jonson & Johnson are administered in US and domestic students could have an edge over Indian students due to this. This disadvantage to Indian students can hamper US Universities bringing in the usual number of international students that fueled the economy with about $39 billion in tuition in 2019.
Students turning to vaccine black market
Meanwhile, students of India that have already seen the worst of the second wave of COVID-19 are faced with the administrative challenge. According to reports, more than 2,00,000 Indian students make their way to American universities, second most after China. Reportedly, students who are anxious about their admission have already turned to vaccine black market, paying a hefty amount to be vaccinated by a particular vaccine.
Sudhanshu Kaushik, a 26-year-old drop out from NYU (New York University) runs a small organization called North American Association of Indian Students that helps prospective and current students. According to Kaushik his team receives several inquiries asking him questions like what if a student can’t get their vaccine on time, what a student can do if their college hasn’t approved the vaccine, they are getting locally.