International status will not affect students’ eligibility to receive COVID-19 vaccine

A California health worker loads syringes with the vaccine on the first day of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being made available to residents at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles. BYU officials say international students should still qualify for the vaccine. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

International BYU students will be no less eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine than those with United States citizenship, campus officials say.

“Our understanding is that international students will be considered as part of the overall ‘student’ category and will be able to access vaccines along with all students in higher education when that time comes,” International Student Services director Sam Brown said. “We are waiting for more information from the state and will notify our students as soon as we hear anything.”

Wendy Jones, Student Health Center nursing director, said the Health Center has gone through the state of Utah for approval to administer the vaccine. She said the center does not know exactly when it will receive the vaccine but is hoping it will be soon and preparing accordingly.

When the center can administer it, she said it will model the county health department’s procedures, practices and lists of questions — none of which ask about country of origin.

“We don’t ask that,” she said. “We welcome all that are associated with BYU.”

She said any BYU student, faculty or staff member who qualifies under the governor’s direction of who can receive the vaccine at that time will be eligible to receive it from the Health Center. The governor released the most recent qualifications on March 4. All Utah adults will be qualify starting April 1.

“We want to help. We want to get this out, and we want to do everything we can for our community,” Jones said.

Sebastian Arias is a first-year master’s student from Colombia studying accounting. He is not planning to visit home this year and said especially during Donald Trump’s presidency, he was worried he would not be able to get the vaccine himself.

“But the current president is more open to immigrants and stuff like that, so that kind of helped a little bit,” he said. “Like it won’t matter where I’m from to get the vaccine.”

Arias said he does not feel the urgency to receive the vaccine because he already had COVID-19 and would like to see how it affects people in the long term, but he is glad the option is available for international students.

“I’m glad we are not different,” he said, adding that he wants to be a good citizen and will receive it if required, despite his hesitations.

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