The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is calling on all provincial governments to extend Medicare to all International Students on arrival in Canada. Currently, International Students are not covered under many provincial health plans, and will not have access to affordable healthcare despite the ongoing global pandemic. “International Students continue to pay exorbitant tuition rates and receive little support while studying in Canada. Without financial support or adequate healthcare, many students find themselves in vulnerable situations that negatively affect their health, wellbeing, and studies” says Bipin Kumar, International students representative at the Canadian Federation of Students.
As the Fall term is approaching, many universities across Canada are returning back to normal for in-person classes. As international students return back to campuses, many provinces do not provide Medicare for international students on arrival. “In provinces such as Newfoundland and Labrador, some students can apply to Medicare on the first day of classes, whereas in Nova Scotia, the students have to wait for 13 months to be eligible for coverage,” says Sophia Fortuna, International Students representative in Nova Scotia.
Alexia Walters, International Students Representative of the Canadian Federation of Students – Manitoba, says, “International students are supposed to arrive 14 days in advance to undergo mandatory quarantine procedures due to the pandemic before they are allowed to attend classes. During this time, the students do not have access to university-provided insurance nor Medicare in provinces where it is available. This puts additional pressure and costs on international students travelling to Canada.” “Most international students do not have access to mRNA vaccines / Canadian-approved vaccines back in their home countries. Many students have either already been vaccinated with different vaccines back home prior to their travel to Canada” says TS Roham, an International student representative from Newfoundland and Labrador.
“In China, only Sinopharm or Sinovac are the only available vaccines. In Syria, Sputnik is the only approved vaccine. Only these vaccines are available in large parts of the Middle East and Africa. How are universities going to deal with students who have been vaccinated abroad as many of these vaccines are not recognized in Canada? Will they require that those who have received the Russian or the Chinese vaccines get two more doses of Pfizer or Moderna? Are international students required to get a total of four shots once they are in Canada?” says Anushka Sokhi, international students representative in Ontario
In the light of the pandemic, the CFS calls on all provincial governments to extend medicare to all international students on arrival in Canada. The CFS also calls on Health Canada to clarify its position on multiple vaccinations and their associated health risks for international students who have already been vaccinated in their home countries prior to their arrival.
Recognizing that students from different cultural backgrounds have hesitancy towards vaccines due to historical/cultural reasons, the CFS also calls on Provincial Governments and Universities to ensure access to adequate testing for all students and workers to ensure a safe and healthy atmosphere upon return to campuses.
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