LEXINGTON, Va. – For international college students in the U.S., the pressure’s on to get their COVID vaccines.
Kittituch Yaemploy, a senior cadet at Virginia Military Institute, said that vaccine supply in his home country, Thailand, is extremely limited.
“Not many people get the vaccine yet,” said Yaemploy.
On Tuesday, he and other international cadets got their vaccines through the Virginia Department of Health.
“I feel more protection for sure,” said Yaemploy.
At VMI, 33 cadets are international. School officials said they expect most to return home this summer for required training for their nation’s military academies or to visit families, some of whom they haven’t seen in more than a year.
Virginia Tech is home to 3,500 international students.
“This is a topic that speaks to the global nature of the pandemic,” said Mark Owczarski, a university spokesperson.
He said the university has more than 12,000 employees and about 7,000 have been vaccinated. That includes international students who work for the school or work as graduate or teaching assistants.
“Many, many international students have had the opportunity at Virginia Tech to receive a vaccination already,” said Owczarski.
New River Health District Director Dr. Noelle Bissell said international students might face extra barriers in getting a vaccine.
“If they go someplace where vaccine may not be as available, they might not be able to get that second dose right away. But again, we would be happy to offer it to them when they return in the fall,” said Bissell. “Many of them could also potentially defer travel plans until we can get them in for their second dose. So I think there’s a lot of options for our international students. But the pandemic is global, so anybody who is traveling anywhere, obviously, we would want to encourage them to be vaccinated.”