International student perspectives on receiving the COVID-19 vaccination in the UK

Students walking outside campus together

International student perspectives on receiving the COVID-19 vaccination in the UK

With the new academic year fast approaching, UK universities are preparing to welcome international students on campus from September 2021. Globally renowned for the quality of its tertiary education provision and culturally diverse, hospitable communities, the UK is an increasingly popular higher education study destination for international students.

UK universities have adapted to the global pandemic, focusing on student safety, while continuing to offer the excellent teaching and learning experience the UK is known for in blended and digital formats. Recently, hybrid and on-campus study abroad opportunities in the UK have become even more appealing, due to the country’s highly successful nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme.

  • 47 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine, which is 89% of the total UK adult population.
  • 39 million people have received their second dose of the vaccine, which is 73% of the total UK adult population.
  • 86 million vaccines have been given in the UK.
  • Free COVID-19 vaccinations are available to all UK citizens over the age of 18, including international students studying in the country.

Fatima from Mexico, who is currently studying a higher education pathway programme with leading international education provider Study Group at the University of Sheffield International College, shares her experience of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination in the UK:

“The process of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the UK for me started by checking the news about COVID-19 vaccinations on social media.

"The University of Sheffield shared on social media details of an NHS walk-in centre (Octagon Centre), which was providing COVID-19 vaccinations for people over the age of 18.

“I went to the Octagon Centre run by the UK NHS and to be honest it was one of the most organised and fastest medical services I have had. Not only were people volunteering to help to support the delivery of a more effective service, but the whole system was incredibly friendly for international people. After 30 minutes of arriving, I was able to have my first COVID-19 vaccination.

“In the case of the second dose, it was almost the same experience, but this time at a pop-up clinic at Bramall Lane Stadium. The overall experience was also really fast and efficient, and the medical staff were really kind. After the jab, we were asked to stay in the stadium for a while to make sure we didn’t experience any side effects.

“The way I feel about having both doses in the UK is not only of happiness but also of safety. It also made me realise the huge benefit of being in the UK, as many people in other countries like Mexico, unfortunately, are not able to get access to a service like this one. My view about how the UK has handled the situation is that despite the emergence of new COVID-19 variables, the UK government and NHS strategy is to constantly promote and support people to get vaccinated, by opening clinics around towns and cities. Overall, I think the UK COVID-19 vaccination strategy is very effective.”

Javeria Imran, an international student studying at the Study Group University of Huddersfield’s International Study College, also speaks about her experience of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination in the UK:

“Ever since the UK government announced that the vaccine will be available for over 18 residents, the University of Huddersfield efficiently sent emails to each of their students mentioning the way to book your slot as well as walk-in centres. I booked an appointment for my first dose of Pfizer at the Honley Village Hall very easily, through a website mentioned in the email.

“The whole process was extremely smooth. Although there were many people arriving for their dose, the seating arrangements were at the necessary distance. Furthermore, the staff was kind and helpful throughout, while making sure to observe the vaccinated people for 15 minutes after getting the dose for any allergic reactions, as well as the availability of sanitisers and information booklets for everyone made the process reassuring. There were barely any side effects other than a sore arm, which thankfully felt better the next day after some proper rest.

“It is comforting to have had the vaccine to be safer outside and around other people.

“Overall, the UK has been produced a well-organised system to provide the vaccine to many age groups including over 16’s being able to receive it soon. There are many centres which can provide the vaccine on the spot, which is definitely an option for people who are unsure of their schedule or have a tough routine.”

Emma Lancaster, Study Group CEO, comments on Fatima’s and Javeria’s experiences:

“As an organisation that prioritises the health, safety and wellbeing of all students, we are very pleased to learn about Fatima’s and Javeria’s experience of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in the UK.

“The fact that the COVID-19 vaccination is free to all UK citizens, including international students and is easily accessible is great news for learners planning to study in the UK this autumn.

“To be eligible for the vaccine, we encourage international students to register as soon as possible with a National Health Service (NHS) doctor (called a ‘General Practitioner’ or ‘GP’). This will enable students to get general healthcare as well as the COVID-19 vaccination.”