Milloni Doshi, a 25-year-old student from India who is supposed to start her master’s degree this fall at Columbia University in New York, has received two doses of a Covid vaccine. But her inoculation was with Covaxin, a vaccine made by an Indian manufacturer and widely used in India.
That vaccine is not approved by the World Health Organization, as required by the university. So Columbia has told her that she must be inoculated with a different vaccine once she arrives on campus, even though no one can say for sure whether it is safe to do so.
“I am just concerned about taking two different vaccines,” she said. “They said the application process would be the toughest part of the cycle, but it’s really been all of this that has been uncertain and anxiety inducing.”
Since March, more than 400 colleges and universities in the United States have announced vaccine mandates that require students to be immunized against Covid-19, but the rules have been designed primarily with domestic students in mind. They have access to the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, three of the eight authorized by W.H.O., according to a spokesman for the health agency.
Many international students have been left scrambling — particularly those in India and Russia, both of which rely heavily on domestically produced vaccines that have not been cleared by the W.H.O.
The disparity could hinder not just the students, but also the colleges that have made it a major priority to retain them. International students brought in close to $39 billion in tuition dollars in the year before the pandemic, according to one analysis.