At a time when several States are struggling to check the spread of the coronavirus, Telangana has come up with some out-of-the-box measures to tackle the situation. The Cabinet’s decision to allow vaccination on a priority basis of students who need to travel abroad for higher education is a welcome development. Similarly, it was a well-thought-out move to launch a special drive to vaccinate nearly 8 lakh people in the high-risk group comprising LPG delivery staff, fair price shop dealers, petrol pump workers, auto and cab drivers, kirana shop and liquor shops employees, workers in vegetable and flower markets and journalists. Almost all universities in the United States, Australia, Canada and Europe have added a ‘vaccine clause’ making it compulsory for students to show proof of vaccination before attending classes. Apart from safety concerns during the pandemic, Indian students are faced with another challenge of being able to reach the respective destinations on time and deriving the maximum value and experience of studying abroad. Telangana government’s decision brings much-needed relief to thousands of students who made the travel plans but were caught in a state of uncertainty. The fall season for Undergraduate and Postgraduate programmes in these countries usually start during August-September. The next task for the government is to see that the gap between two doses of Covishield, which is now fixed at 12 weeks, is reduced so that students travelling overseas can complete their vaccination schedule.
Unless relaxation is allowed in the inter-dose interval, the travel plans of several students could be derailed. And, many of them might stand to lose their university admissions or jobs if they cannot reach their destinations on schedule. At present, the CoWIN portal does not allow the second dose to be administered before 12 weeks of receiving the first vaccine dose. Hence, the second dose will have to be recorded separately by verifying the relevant documents such as visa, admission or job confirmation and work permit. The Telangana government has done well to address the key issues facing the youth. Another issue that needs to be taken up with the Centre urgently is that Covaxin, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, doesn’t figure among the list of approved vaccines in many countries. Those wanting to get back to the Gulf countries to resume their jobs will be hit hard because none of the countries in the region, a key hub for Indian migrant workers, approve of Covaxin. The process for getting the relevant approvals for the indigenous vaccine needs to be expedited to avoid hardships for millions of people. Though Covaxin is being administered extensively across India, it has not yet been approved by the World Health Organization.