International students struggle with NU’s booster shot requirement


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Northwestern instituted a booster shot requirement in an email to the student body on Dec. 20. International students, however, have had trouble acquiring booster shots.

Avani Kalra, Assistant City Editor

When Weinberg freshman Defne Deda learned about Northwestern’s new COVID-19 booster shot requirement, she immediately searched for a Pfizer vaccine appointment in her home country, Turkey. 

Deda was ultimately able to find a vaccine appointment, but said she was lucky to secure one at all. Turkey does not have many Pfizer vaccines, so she could not find any appointments close to her house or open ones after the new year.

“I felt strongly about getting my shot in Turkey because I wasn’t sure what the repercussions would be documentation-wise,” she said. “If I got two shots in Turkey and one in the United States, I didn’t know how to register it.” 

On Dec. 20, Vice President for Operations Luke Figora announced a booster shot requirement for all students returning to campus Winter Quarter. Students have until Jan. 30 or 30 days after they are first eligible to obtain a vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Though Weinberg freshman Akash Shroff said he felt similarly to Deda, he was unable to obtain the vaccine in his home country because India has only approved booster shots for residents over 60 and frontline workers. 

Due to the disparity in vaccine access around the world, NU in Qatar is not requiring a booster shot. 

“We have been encouraging the community to get the booster shot when eligible,” NU-Q Director of Communications and Public Affairs Nanci Martin said in an email to The Daily. 

NU-Q does not know how many of its students have received a booster, according to Michael McDonough, the campus’s director of health, safety, security and environment.

Only boosters approved by the FDA will be accepted at the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Students are “strongly encouraged” to obtain an mRNA vaccine: either Pfizer or Moderna. 

Deda said this requirement makes things difficult for those looking to obtain a booster shot in Turkey, especially since Moderna shots are not available there. Appointments for Pfizer vaccines are difficult to secure, so Deda said the more readily available vaccine alternative is Sinovac. However, Sinovac vaccines are not FDA-approved and are therefore not accepted by NU. 

The process for obtaining a vaccine is more complicated in Turkey than in the United States, Deda added. She said there is no “walk-in” option, and Turkey requires a National ID. 

Both Deda and Shroff said they received no communication from the University about obtaining the booster as international students. Shroff has decided to wait to obtain the shot until he travels to Evanston at the end of Wildcat Wellness. 

Shroff said he had trouble searching for a booster shot appointment in late January at Evanston’s CVS locations. He has received two doses of the CoviShield vaccine, which is not FDA-approved. He said CVS required proof of an FDA-approved vaccine to book an appointment. 

Still, Shroff is happy with the requirement. He is planning to obtain a Pfizer or Moderna booster shot through a Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care Center in Chicago. As long as NU keeps its sites open to students, Shroff said he is not worried about getting a booster. 

“With the way cases have been rising, I don’t think the requirement is unfair,” Shroff said. “I think it’s quite necessary. What remains to be seen is how easy it is for international students to get the vaccine.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avanidkalra

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