International Students Face Immunization Barriers As They Prepare For Campus Life In Canada


Like many students who plan to learn in class this fall, Nyle Maker is looking for his second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine before he begins university in Hamilton.

But unlike most, the 18-year-old McMaster University student has already received a full set of Russian Sputnik V vaccines in his home country of Pakistan and is heading down a dark road not just by mixing injections, but doubling them effectively.

Maker says he was tricked into believing he did not meet vaccine requirements for a room under the changing McMaster campus housing policy because Sputnik did not receive the rubber stamp from Health Canada or the World Health Organization.

The university recently revised its rules to give international students a little more leeway, but those changes were too few and too late to help Maker.

By the time he had a dose of Pfizer under his belt, Maker said McMaster’s residences filled up, leaving him and many other students on a waiting list.

“My biggest concern when I arrive in Canada is my accommodation,” says Maker.

“Renting a house (or) an apartment abroad is really difficult, so I’ll have to do it when I get there. “

Many universities and colleges have issued vaccination warrants for living or learning on campus, creating additional layers of complications and confusion for many potential students from overseas.

McMaster University, University of Toronto and Western University in London are among post-secondary institutions requiring students – international and domestic – to have at least one dose of a WHO-approved vaccine to move into their residence .

Universities say they will give residents a grace period to comply with the requirements and help newcomer youth get their jabs in Canada.

Seneca College in Toronto goes further in its mandate, insisting that all students and staff be vaccinated before setting foot on campus on September 7. Otherwise, there is online education.

Residence on campus may be ‘breeding ground’ for contagion, expert says

The four schools say they accept the World Health Organization’s list of vaccines approved for emergency use, which includes formulations from Chinese companies Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm in addition to products Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson authorized by Health Canada. .

But that leaves out the Covaxin, made by Bharat Biotech in India, one of the main source countries for international students at Canadian universities, and the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, used in dozens of countries, including South Korea. , Argentina and the United Arab Emirates.

The Ontario Ministry of Health advises people who have received vaccines not approved by the WHO to be offered an additional set of vaccines authorized by Health Canada.

However, the ministry acknowledges that there is no data to support the safety or effectiveness of this approach.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it is assessing the issue.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease expert at McMaster University, sees the rationale for making vaccination a condition of residence on campus, which can be “fertile ground” for contagion.

But he said there isn’t a lot of science on the impacts of mixing different vaccine products that use different technologies and have varying permissions. Things get murkier when it comes to giving people a third or fourth dose.

“I do not suspect that giving another vaccine to people who have received a series of vaccines will necessarily lead to a decrease in effectiveness. On the contrary, it will increase. But it’s a world without data,” a- he declared.

“We are counseling patients on what this means and what it looks like in the long term for them, but we don’t really have a good answer.”

Immigration consultant Roya Golesorkhi said some of the international students she works with would prefer not to risk duplicating vaccine varieties.

“It’s a valid concern,” Golesorkhi said. “They consider themselves to be fully vaccinated and they don’t want to be vaccinated again here.”

The Canadian Federation of Students has raised concerns about fairness for vaccinated international students who are forced to request additional doses even as many in their home countries struggle to secure enough vaccines to inoculate their families. populations.

“The students think this is an unnecessary thing,” said Bipin Kumar, the group’s international student representative.

“When there is already a huge shortage of vaccines in the world, they are forced to procure additional vaccines simply for lack of recognition from (Canadian) health authorities.”

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