International students may face one more challenge after overcoming complicated visa statuses, drastic time differences, and WiFi issues: vaccination status.
President A. Gabriel Esteban announced via email on April 21 that all undergraduate, graduate and advanced students returning in the fall would be required to be vaccinated. Although the university has yet to provide further information, students would likely need to be vaccinated to attend in-person courses, live on campus, or engage in student organizations.
The vaccine procedure is relatively simple for students in the United States. Anyone over the age of 16 can get vaccinated at any city-run location. “The COVID-19 vaccine is free to all, regardless of insurance or immigration status,” according to the City of Chicago. DePaul also hosted a vaccine clinic on campus to make vaccines more available.
However, not all DePaul students have the same access to vaccines; obtaining the vaccine for international students may be even more difficult.
International students account for almost 10% of DePaul’s student body, accounting for 4.7 percent of undergraduates and 17.6 percent of graduate students. According to DePaul’s Office of Global Engagement, 2,316 students from 126 countries were enrolled in the 2019-2020 school year.
Vaccine supply varies widely in those 126 countries. Unlike students in Chicago or the United States, international students have access to a wide range of vaccines.
Vaccines are officially only available for adults over the age of 40 in Pakistan. According to DePaul sophomore Sharjeel Sajjad, who is originally from Karachi, Pakistan, and is a Global Ambassador for DePaul, if college students want to get vaccinated, they must pay for a private one.
None of the three vaccines approved for use in the United States are currently available in Pakistan, which adds to the confusion for Pakistani students at DePaul who expect to return in the fall. He was optimistic that things would work out by the fall, despite the uncertainty.
Sajjad said he still believes the provision is appropriate and that “everyone should be vaccinated.” Upon his recent return to the United States, he got the vaccine.
“We already have 8-10 vaccine specifications as international students,” Sajjad said. “The Covid vaccine just makes it worse.”
Juliana Zanubi, a Colombian sophomore at DePaul, believes she will not be able to get vaccinated in Colombia, where she has spent this academic year.
“I wish DePaul had summer vaccine clinics because I won’t be able to get it here,” she said.
Zanubi said her mother was supposed to get the second dose of the vaccine last Monday, but all roads in Colombia were closed due to demonstrations and political unrest, and she couldn’t leave home.
According to the New York Times vaccine tracker, only 3.5 percent of Colombians have received the entire vaccine sequence.
The top five countries of citizenship for DePaul’s foreign student population are China, India, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and South Korea, all of which have considerably lower vaccination rates than the United States.
Even if students can get vaccinated, DePaul has yet to announce whether or not they would be counted against the requirement to return this fall. The school has not yet determined how to handle vaccines that have been accepted in other countries but not in the United States.
“DePaul is evaluating how to treat COVID-19 vaccines that are not yet licensed for use in the United States but are being used by some of our international students,” the university said on an international students FAQ page. “After we obtain further instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chicago Department of Public Health, we will meet with [students] as soon as possible.”
Vaccines such as Oxford-AstraZeneca, Gamaleya (Sputnik V), Sinopharm-Beijing, Sinovac, CanSino, Sinopharm-Wuhan, and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) are available in DePaul students’ home countries. Still, they have not been authorized for use in the United States.
Other schools have made choices, despite DePaul’s inaction. Columbia College would not require international students to be re-vaccinated if they have already been vaccinated in another country with a vaccine not accepted in the United States. Any vaccine licensed worldwide would count, according to Boston University, a school with a significant international student population.