One of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic received welcome news today when the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced it would recognise two vaccines that are widely used around the globe - Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India).
The recognition has far-reaching ramifications for the international students who contribute to one of Australia's largest export industries, as it means if they've had these vaccines they will be able to enter the country once borders reopen under a one-week home quarantine scheme.
The two vaccines have been administered in two of Australia's largest sources of international students - China and India - but Sinovac is also used in Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Egypt, Libya, Oman, Turkey, the Ukraine and elsewhere.
Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson said the decision gives certainty to Australia’s international students.
"This is a major milestone in ensuring a smooth transition for their return to Australian campuses, when the Federal and State Governments deem it safe to do so," Thomson said.
"Importantly, we can now provide clear advice to our international students, who while continuing their studies offshore have had to rely on the vaccines made available to them."
The Group of Eight, Australia’s leading research-intensive universities which enroll the majority of international students, wrote to the Minister for Health Greg Hunt last week, seeking urgent advice on the Government’s position on the vaccination requirements for international students.
"The Go8 has around 30,000 international students studying offshore, they have stuck by our world class universities during the pandemic with the expectation that they can eventually be back in Australia to resume their studies on campus," Thomson said.
"Today’s announcement will provide a much-needed boost to our international student community.
"The recent announcement of the phased return of international students into NSW by the end of the year is also welcome and a key step forward in Australia’s post pandemic recovery."
She explained international students comprised a significant proportion of research cohorts studying in key areas such as engineering, information technology and agriculture.
"Without these students, Australia risks suffering skills gaps in the very areas that we are increasingly going to need to be competitive in a post-pandemic environment," Thomson said.
"We are especially pleased to see the emphasis on safety in the NSW Government’s announcement. While we have been strong advocates for the importance of international students to our community and economy, we have also always emphasised the need to maintain safety by following the expert health advice."
Updated at 4:49pm AEST on 1 October 2021.
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