In a move that might bring relief to many Indian students aspiring to travel to Australia for higher studies, the Australian government has recognized another India-made vaccine, Covaxin, for inbound international travel to the country.
The country’s drug regulator, Therapeutic Goods Administration, has included Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, on the list of recognized vaccines, after AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield last month.
As Covaxin awaits emergency use nod from the World Health Organization, this comes as a big impetus to India and its many students who are facing challenges in traveling to other countries as many of these are yet to recognize the vaccine or consider travelers who have taken the jab as vaccinated.
Countries, especially the most popular study abroad destinations for Indian students such as the United States and United Kingdom, are yet to recognize Covaxin. Nevertheless, the Indian government is making constant efforts and pushing it through diplomatic ties and mutual agreements.
Mutual recognition of vaccine certifications is one of the top priorities for the Modi government.
So far, Covaxin has been recognized for travel in nations including Mauritius, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the decision of the Australian government, saying it is a key step ahead in post-COVID partnership between the two countries.
The decision has paved the way for several Indian students who are stuck at home because of travel restrictions and ban on international flights. As per recent data, the number of new Indian students opting to pursue higher education at Australian universities dropped by over 80 percent in the latter half of 2020. Australia’s international education system is estimated to be worth over $30 billion.
Indian students contributed nearly $6.6 billion to the Oz economy in the 2019-20 financial year.
Overall, foreign students contribute significantly to several regional communities, with about 5 percent of these students living and studying in regional areas.
Before COVID-19, it was estimated that international students in Australian universities will create close to 130,000 skilled migrants to its workforce after they graduate.
But border restrictions and ban on international flights have had a major economic impact on Australian higher education institutions and their student recruitment initiatives. As per data from its Department of Higher Education, about 2,500 Indian students were studying at Australian universities between July and November last year, a decrease of 83 percent compared with the same period in 2019.
According to data from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, as of early 2021, about 130,000 students enrolled in Australian universities were stuck in other countries because of the pandemic restrictions.
India had also raised the issue of the return of about 17,000 of its students with the Australian authorities recently. India’s Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan discussed this with his Australian counterpart Alan Tudge and was assured of their government’s plans to facilitate the return of students soon.