Indian students and universities have warmly welcomed the news that Indian students living in Australia will be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine when the rollout begins in February.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt made clear international students were an important part of the country’s vaccination strategy which aims to give as many people as possible access to the vaccine.

“We need to make sure that everybody who’s on Australian soil is safe, and everybody who’s on Australian soil has access to protection. That means the government will provide Covid-19 vaccinations free to all visa holders in Australia.”

The announcement follows confirmation by the U.K. government that international students will be eligible for its own vaccine rollout.

Commenting on the announcement, Director of leading pathway provider Study Group Australia and a strong sector advocate for a coordinated welcome for international students, Alex Chevrolle said, “This is excellent news for Indian and all of the international students in our Study Centres across Australia and for the 520,000 international student visa holders who have been living and studying in Australia throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Vaccines have a crucial role to play in getting the country back to normal and to reopening our borders to Indian students who are keen to continue their education and to progress to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in our excellent universities. While this has been a truly challenging time for Indian students and education providers, Australia education has gone to tremendous efforts to shift study online and to support students to the best of their ability. Now we are all looking forward to doing what it takes to strengthen this important activity for students and for the wider Australian economy.”

Australia has secured 150 million doses of various vaccines, with the roll-out commencing in coming weeks with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, subject to final approval by the country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. The country also has agreements to take the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Novavax and COVAX Facility vaccines subject to completion of successful clinical trials and approval.

The Australian government concluded, “We look forward to welcoming international students in a COVIDSafe way when it is safe to do so. A range of factors including vaccination status will be considered for international arrivals to ensure the protection of international students and the Australian community.”