After rigorous clinical trials have been conducted, with thousands of people involved, the UK has officially become the first country in the western world to authorise a COVID-19 vaccine. The experts from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have taken all the necessary measures to analyse the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness, and thankfully it is good to go.
With authorisation granted, Pfizer will deliver the vaccine to the UK as soon as possible. Fortunately for international students in the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that international students will “be able to access these vaccinations, just as they are able to access healthcare”.
Who is first in line to receive the vaccine?
According to a priority system devised by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, care home residents and their care-givers are top priority. Next in line are the elderly over the age of 80, frontline healthcare workers, people aged over 75, then younger age groups and/or with underlying health conditions. Excluded for now are pregnant women and children under the age of 16, but vaccine trials for these groups are ongoing and planned.
The UK government has actively expressed its commitment to support international students, ensuring they will not be forgotten as the vaccine is distributed and administered. In an open letter to students, universities minister Michelle Donelan expressed the country’s gratitude to them, thanking everyone for their patience.
“I understand that international students may have additional questions as we approach the end of the 2020/21 autumn academic term. Whether you are currently at your chosen university, are studying remotely from your home country, or plan to study here in the future, I am writing to you directly to provide you with support and guidance at this challenging time,” she wrote.
Donelan’s letter focuses on the movements of international students during the festive season and new term, noting that some students may have to stay on campus at this time. “It is [the] government’s expectation that HE providers should help to ensure you are well looked after,” she said. Donelan also mentions that the government is advising international students to return to university during a period staggered over five weeks.
In light of the UK’s vaccine breakthrough, a new survey by QS has found that over a fifth (21%) of international students have said they want to bring forward their plans to study abroad and there’s no reason why they should not.
“Our borders are open for both returning and new international students wishing to study in the UK and our universities are looking forward to welcoming you to campuses in the new year,” Donelan reassures.
“We are committed to prioritising education and want to enable all students – domestic and international, current and prospective – that they can return to, or start new courses at our universities and will be able to engage in blended learning as soon as possible,” she adds.