vaccination for international students
The University of California has proposed a vaccination policy for returning students. Source: Apu Gomes/AFP

The University of California wants to prioritise COVID-19 vaccination for international students ahead of the fall 2021 semester. A new policy proposed on April 22 suggests that every student returning from overseas must first receive a vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) — though the policy will only be finalised once the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves these COVID-19 vaccines.

The UCSD Guardian quotes Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Alysson Satterlund as saying that most classes will be in person come September. “We understand that there may be some remote instructions available as well because we do have learners from all over the world whose circumstances continue to evolve, but the intention is to highlight and continue to return to in-person learning as many ways as we possibly can,” she explained in a student town hall.

So far, WHO has approved six vaccines for emergency use: Pfizer/BioNTech, Astrazeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India, Janssen, Moderna, and Sinopharm.

vaccination for international students

A large part of the 160,000 international students enrolled in Californian universities is hoping to return in the fall. Depicted: San Diego State Aztecs. Source: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP

Implications of mandatory vaccination for international students

California hosts the most international students in the US. Over 160,000 are enrolled in the state’s institutions, with over 8,000 in UC San Diego. An estimated 20% to 25% are studying remotely from overseas during the pandemic, but not all may be returning.

When this policy comes into effect, international students who are not vaccinated will not be allowed back on campus — even if you have a medical condition that prevents you from receiving the vaccine. “There is a need for everyone to realise that lots of international students might not be able to return to the US in time for school,” expressed Associated Students international senator Dakssh Saraf. “To create that remote learning for these students is very essential for the continuation of education.”

One such student is fourth-year Xinyi Zhang from China, who hopes to complete her undergraduate degree remotely come fall. “I wish to have remote learning in the fall. I developed some serious mental problems during the pandemic and I always felt lonely, so I went back to China in the Winter quarter to stay with my parents,” she tells. “The contract for my housing in San Diego will end in July. Having the remote learning option will also save me from finding new housing.”

The University of California network includes ten campuses, five medical centres and three national labs. This public university system also recently made headlines for dropping SAT and ACT scores from admission requirements for fall 2023 and beyond. Now, its policy of mandatory vaccination for international students could set the tone for American universities.

If you have questions or concerns over this new vaccine policy, get in touch with the University of California Office of President at You can also reach out to ISPO for international travel concerns.