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Written by Samriddhi Sakunia

Nikhil Patil (21), an engineer from Gujarat’s Vadodara, was relieved when he finally managed to book a Covid-19 vaccination slot for himself after a lot of attempts in May. A few weeks earlier, Patil had secured admission to Canada’s University of Windsor for a post-graduation course and wanted to ensure that he was fully vaccinated by the time he applied for the visa.

Patil got the first dose of Covaxin and is now anxious about his travel and education like thousands of other foreign-bound students inoculated with it. The vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech is yet to get Emergency Use Listing (EUL) approval from the World Health Organisation (WHO). Last week, the latest bid by Bharat Biotech’s US partner Acugen to obtain an emergency-use authorisation was rejected by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Without WHO approval, most countries are likely to treat those administered Covaxin as unvaccinated. The other vaccine widely in use in the country, Covishield, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, is approved by WHO.

“What this means for me is that even if I land in Canada, I will be considered as a non-vaccinated person in Canada. Further, I will have to pay for my 14-day quarantine and get re-vaccinated”, said Patil.

Akarsh Thodupunuri, a graduate from Hyderabad, rushed to get vaccinated ahead of his college in Canada in August. “I took Covaxin because it was available at the time. Little did I know that this decision would jeopardise my career. I’m scheduled to travel to Canada in August, and I have paid about Rs 50 lakh for my college in advance,” said Thodupunuri.

Thodupunuri says quarantine facilities in Canada can cost anywhere between Rs 20,000 to 1.2 lakh. “Plus, I will have to do Covid tests that cost almost 60 CAD (Rs 3,600) before the flight, at the layover and after landing in Canada. I could have avoided all this hassle and expenditure had I taken a WHO-approved vaccine,” said Thodupunuri.

Another student from Hyderabad Bhoomika Motwani is worried about the extra charges her family will have to incur to set up a quarantine facility for her in Canada. “I have to bear the cost of the quarantine which for me would be about Rs 1.2 lakh. I will have to revaccinate myself and not much research has come out on revaccination. That concerns me,” said Motwani.

Piyush Patil, a graduate of Marathwada Mitramandal, Pune, had to cancel his masters. “I was applying for a college in the UK. I took Covaxin but the UK does not recognise Covaxin. I took the vaccine trusting the government, but now will have to postpone my studies to next year”.

It is not only students, seafarers are also facing problems due to Covaxin. “As many as 2000 seafarers have faced issues due to getting vaccinated with Covaxin. Some have even lost their jobs because they couldn’t join ships on time. I get calls daily of seafarers from various states like Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal. We have written to WHO and Maharashtra Chief Minister Aditya Thackeray but have got no response as yet,” Abhijit Sangle, working president of All India Seafarers Union, said.

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