Australia recognises Covaxin and What it Means for International Students from India
As an aftermath of the pandemic, International students desirous to travel are facing vaccination validation as the next obstacle in Australia. However, on November 1, 2021, the decision of Australia to accept Bharat Biotech manufactured Covaxin as a recognised vaccine has come as a relief to the International students of India.
Big success for Covaxin up ahead of WHO approval
- Australia’s decision to accept Covaxin as a recognised vaccine has come as a big win for India’s first domestically manufactured Covid-19 vaccine while waiting for a green signal from the World Health Organisation.
- This step is going to determine Indian traveller’s vaccination status in Australia to a great extent. Thus Covaxin Joins, the club of approved vaccines with AstraZeneca-manufactured Covishield, was approved last month.
- In the assessment on the protection offered by certain COVID-19 vaccines by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Australia, TGA clearly states that Covaxin (Bharat Biotech, India) showed an average Vaccine Efficacy (VE) against symptomatic infection of 78% and an average VE against hospitalisation of 94%.
While some countries do not recognise Covaxin, including the US and the UK, countries like Nepal, Mexico, Iran, Greece, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and the Philippines has approved Covaxin for travel purposes.
The Ministry of External Affairs is negotiating with the European nations and several other countries for the vaccine certification to be mutually recognised. In this way, WHO recognition will no more be a mandatory clause. One such agreement had already been struck between India and Hungary last month, and the government is hoping for further success soon.
Impact on the Australian Education and Economy
- The number of international students enrolled in Australian Universities in 2021 had plummeted sharply in the face of the ongoing pandemic. While the International students start looking at alternative countries, the country is experiencing a risk of losing its competitiveness in the International Educational Sphere.
- The country has endured a monetary loss of around $6 billion to its economy. International student enrolments have reportedly gone down by more than 100,000 in the last fiscal year.
- In 2020, the education exports fell by 21.4%, adversely influencing international student commencements for the next academic year. In 2021, it has gone down by nearly 20%, compared to 2020. Australia’s Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge, had expressed his concerns and wished for the return of the International Students. He added, “We’ll continue to work with states and territories on proposals to return international students when conditions allow.”
- In this situation, recognition of Covaxin has shown promise to aid the educational ambitions of the students, besides empowering the academic competence of Australia as a whole.
Impact on the Indian Students keen to study in Australia
- Australia’s move to recognise Covaxin will significantly impact the return of international students to India and the travel of skilled and unskilled workers to Australia.
- The Australian health regulator announces recognition of Covaxin, and BBIBP-CorV, with the previously mentioned vaccine Coronavac (manufactured by Sinovac, China) and Covishield (manufactured by AstraZeneca, India). Australia will now consider citizens of China and India fully vaccinated on entry to Australia.
- Australian Trade minister Dan Tehan had exclaimed that Australia is warmly looking to welcome back Indian students to the country. International students will be able to start returning towards the end of this year and the beginning of next year, with semester one commencing in Feb or March next year.
- Earlier this September, the Indian external affairs minister raised the problems faced by Indian students to his Australian counterpart, Minister Payne, during the two plus two dialogue in Delhi. During the conversation, he had urged to sympathetically address the impediments faced by the students due to travel restrictions with immediate urgency.
- In recent weeks, the TGA has put up additional information demonstrating these vaccines provide protection and potentially reduce the odds of Covid-19 transmission by an incoming traveller. The supporting information was provided to the TGA by the vaccine sponsor and the WHO.
India is continuously developing diplomatic channels for mutual agreements with about a dozen nations to expedite the entry of Indians vaccinated by Covaxin.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi communicated his sincere commendation for Australia’s decision on Twitter. He regards this step to be important in the context of the post-Covid partnership between Indian and Australia.