The University updated its vaccination and COVID-19 policies in August in preparation for an in-person semester. With these changes, international students who had received vaccines not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were required to register for an additional two shots from either Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or single dose of Johnson & Johnson/Janssen.
In interviews with The News-Letter, international students described discontent over the University’s decision to reject vaccines approved by the World Health Organization such as Oxford/AstraZeneca or Sinopharm.
Freshman Panwa Promtep, an international student from Thailand, was concerned about the policy change.
“We were originally given a list of vaccines that were accepted and mine, AstraZeneca, was one of them,” he said. “So I had to scramble to find the vaccine before I came here. If I was told beforehand that AstraZeneca wasn’t accepted, I wouldn’t have gotten the dose in the first place.”
In an email to The News-Letter, Director of Media Relations Jill Rosen stated that the new policy was based on evidence that some vaccines not authorized by the FDA may be less effective against the delta variant.
She explained that the University’s vaccination requirement reflects the advice of public health experts that achieving as universal a vaccination status as possible is the most effective way to keep the Hopkins community safe.
“While there are as of yet no controlled studies on revaccination, Johns Hopkins vaccine, medical, and public health experts do not believe there is a risk to ‘double’ or ‘cross-platform’ vaccination, and do see potentially significant benefits for individuals and for public health within our community,” she wrote. “Double vaccination is not that much different than boosters or vaccination post–COVID, which is done frequently without adverse effects.”
Junior Peter Huang, another international student, called on the University to better support international students who now need to get vaccinated for the second time.
“After all, it is the students who are taking the risks of the potential side effects — as reported by the FDA — in acquiring these vaccinations,” he said. “Therefore, I believe the school should take responsibility if anything averse should happen to us. A clarification on how our student insurance would cover this and also the economic responsibilities we have to uptake ourselves should be made crystal clear.”
Huang further emphasized the importance of research from the University to test future prospects of revaccinated students. He believes it is the University’s responsibility to monitor and assess students’ health situations as the pandemic continues to be part of daily lives.
Freshman Hyeonmin Chang, an international student from South Korea, predicted that getting revaccinated with FDA-approved vaccines will benefit both the student body and the individual.
“With the recent rise of booster shots, I think compounding different shots isn’t going to cause too much trouble,” Chang said. “If there was an issue, people would have already known about it.”
Promtep is dissatisfied with how the University supported students who received vaccines not approved by the FDA.
“The support service wasn't really amazing. Asking the [COVID-19] Call Center was not helpful since they do not seem to know how to deal with our situation,” he said. “We were given an arbitrary number of weeks to wait before getting the first new dose.”
Students who must be revaccinated have until Oct. 8 to submit proof of revaccination to the University. The University emphasized that disciplinary action will be taken against students who do not comply with University vaccine policy.
In her email, Rosen noted that the University has been providing students with easy access to vaccines to facilitate the process.
“We offered a series of vaccination clinics on campus at the beginning of the school year during which from Aug. 19 to Sept. 20 we administered 1,395 COVID-19 vaccines. Also, most local pharmacies provide the vaccines,” she wrote. “If any student shared an issue with us about having trouble getting vaccinated, we worked with them.”
Rosen added that students who test positive will be required to isolate for 10 days. Depending on their housing situation and student status — on-campus or off-campus resident and undergraduate or graduate — they may be required to isolate in University isolation housing.
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