COVID-19 vaccine
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has just arrived in Australia, kicking off a national vaccination campaign. Source: Behrouz Mehri/POOL/AFP

It’s official: the COVID-19 vaccine will be available to international students in Australia for free under the country’s five-phase vaccination strategy. It is hoped that this national vaccination program leads towards the relaxing of international travel restrictions — which is especially pertinent to international students, who remain in the dark on when the borders will reopen for them.

Australia has secured 150 million vaccine doses; 142,000 doses of the Prizer/BioNTech variant arrived in Sydney on Monday. The rollout is expected to begin on February 22 and last until mid-October. More recently, the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine for use in Australia. The latter will also be produced locally in Melbourne beginning late March.

“We need to make sure that everybody who’s on Australian soil is safe, and everybody who’s on Australian soil has access to protection. That means the government will provide COVID-19 vaccinations free to all visa holders in Australia. This will include refugees, asylum seekers, temporary protection visa holders, and those on bridging visas,” said Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Though it is not mandatory, its COVID-19 vaccination policy states that those who do not get vaccinated may not be able to travel freely. It reads: “While the Australian government strongly supports immunisation and will run a strong campaign to encourage vaccination, it is not mandatory and individuals may choose not to vaccinate. There may, however, be circumstances where the Australian government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination.”

More information to come on COVID-19 vaccines for international students in Australia.