COVID-19 vaccine
Though the COVID-19 vaccine is now available, they are being administered according to each country's plan. Source: Piero Cruciatti/Pool/AFP

COVID-19 vaccine development was a dominating theme of last year, and now, countries around the world are already rolling it out. Priority groups get it first, of course; this includes healthcare and essential workers, senior citizens, and vulnerable groups. At the same time, a quick vaccine rollout brings good news for everyone, including international students. Countries with an immunised population will be able to welcome students back sooner. With that in mind, here are five countries that are leading the way with the COVID-19 vaccine right now. Is your ideal study destination on the list?


Israel is the fastest to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine to its population, covering about 14% in under three weeks. That’s about 1.1 million Israelis. It helps that the country has a relatively small, concentrated population alongside a unique, efficient healthcare system — and that it paid a premium price for a larger supply of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

Israel boasts many advantages for international students, including several well-reputed universities. Can students travel into Israel, though? Well, right now only people with an Israeli passport, residence visa, or specific entry approval can enter the country. Though the airport is open and flights have resumed, you should still check with the embassy to confirm that you’ll get in. Everyone coming in will have to quarantine for 10 to 14 days. 


Though England is currently under lockdown, the UK was the first to authorise the Pfizer- BioNtech vaccine and began vaccinating key groups in early December. Over a million people had been vaccinated by the new year, and the pace will accelerate as the second COVID-19 vaccine (by AstraZeneca and Oxford University) is rolled out. Though the latest reports say the second vaccine is still being tested, the UK aims to vaccinate the entire country by summer 2021, making it possible to enter safely by September 2021.

UK universities are therefore preparing for a full intake in September. Only students in practical programmes  — those requiring lab sessions, for example — are allowed back on campus right now; other students are studying remotely until the lockdown is lifted. Plus, the Department of Education is advising international students to hold off from travelling unless they’re in the exempted group.


European countries have been relatively slow to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine, which places Germany ahead of neighbouring countries. With that said, it does have to speed up vaccinations if it wants to hit the goal of covering 10 million people in the first quarter of 2021, starting with nursing homes by the end of January. Chancellor Angela Merkel has also said that she is open to manufacturing the Russian vaccine in Germany.

The country is in lockdown until the end of January, but you may still travel in as long as you follow the “two-test strategy.” Only visitors from the UK and South Africa are banned right now due to their high cases of the new COVID-19 strain. 


China is inoculating citizens with its own COVID-19 vaccine, having covered one million people by mid-December. Citizens will get their chance during a later phase, but those leaving the country for work or study will be prioritised. However, the situation is not friendly to foreign nationals just yet China is still not welcoming international students back.


Though the US has vaccinated 5.3 million citizens in the first week of the year, it is still far behind its 20 million target. The US is similar to China in several ways; it has a large population to cover, and it is still not open to visitors. Unlike China, however, the US is still battling high numbers of COVID-19 cases in its country. These factors could result in a delay on all fronts, including welcoming international students back.