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UK expands approved vaccines list and eases under-18 travel

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • On 22 November 2021, the UK will add WHO EUL vaccines to its list of recognised vaccines, opening the door to many more travellers and students who might have otherwise found it too challenging to get to the UK
  • This will make the UK’s approved vaccine list more extensive than those in Canada or the US
  • All under-18s will be treated as “fully vaccinated,” which will make it much easier for them as well to enter the country without onerous challenges

In important news for agents and students focused on study in the UK, there is new travel and border guidance from the British government: “From 4:00 am Monday 22 November, COVID-19 vaccines on the WHO Emergency Use List (EUL) will be recognised and all under-18s coming to England will be treated as fully vaccinated at the border.”

Newly recognised vaccines are therefore Sinovac, Sinopharm Beijing, and Covaxin, which will open the door to fully vaccinated students coming from countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and India. These WHO EUL vaccines join Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca (including Covishield), Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) as approved vaccines in the UK.

Weeks ago, there had been furor around the government’s exclusion of vaccines administered in certain countries and regions. The more extensive list of approved vaccines means that travellers who would otherwise have had significant challenges and costs associated with travelling to the UK will find it much easier to enter the country and will not have to self-isolate. The UK government notes that they are “not required to take a pre-departure test, day 8 test or self-isolate upon arrival. Instead, passengers will just need to pay for a lateral flow test to take before the end of their second day, post-arrival.”

Regarding the new treatment of all under-18s as “fully vaccinated,” this means that under-18s will not have to self-isolate upon arrival. The government states: “They will only be required to take 1 post-arrival test and a confirmatory free PCR test if they test positive.” This news is obviously very important for the many UK educators whose specialisation is the Junior student market.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps issued this press statement:

“As we continue to recover from the pandemic and expand our recognition of international vaccines, today’s announcements mark the next step in our restart of international travel. By also simplifying the rules for international travel for all under-18s coming to England, we’re bringing further good news for families looking to unite with loved ones, and another great boost for the travel sector.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid added a caution, however, reserving the right to change course (and rules) at any point to keep citizens safe:

“Today’s announcement is another step forward for the travel industry, businesses and for family and friends wanting to reunite or go abroad. The red list and quarantine system remain vital in protecting our borders and as we’ve said we will not hesitate to take action by adding countries to the red list if necessary.”

How do the new vaccine policies compare?

As of this writing, the UK’s announcement makes the UK the least challenging of the major English-speaking destinations for students to enter and begin settling into normal routines.

Australia and New Zealand remain closed with few exceptions.

In the US, only Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) are recognised vaccines. Travellers fully vaccinated with those vaccines can enter the country provided they have shown proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours prior to flying.

In Canada, the only approved vaccines are Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Covishield, and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson. Travellers fully vaccinated with those vaccines can enter Canada with some conditions.

For additional background, please see:

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