The news comes as a relief to the approximately 520,000 international student visa holders who have remained in Australia since the pandemic began, many of whom are excluded from accessing other government health and financial support programs.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the country’s vaccination strategy aims to give as many people as possible access to the vaccine.
“We need to make sure that everybody who’s on Australian soil is safe, and everybody who’s on Australian soil has access to protection.
“That means the government will provide Covid-19 vaccinations free to all visa holders in Australia. This will include refugees, asylum seekers, temporary protection visa holders, and those on bridging visas.
“People currently residing in detention facilities will also be eligible, including those whose visas have been cancelled.”
However, those on Transit, Tourist, eVisitor and Electronic Travel Authority visas won’t be eligible for free vaccination but may be offered doses under a user-pays arrangement.
Australia has secured 150 million doses of various vaccines, with the roll-out commencing in coming weeks with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, subject to final approval by the country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The country also has agreements to take Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax, COVAX Facility vaccines subject to completion of successful clinical trials and approval by the TGA
The vaccination program has been broken down into five phases focusing on protecting the most vulnerable in the community first regardless of visa or citizenship status.
First in line are border workers, quarantine workers and those front-line healthcare workers like intensive care units and emergency department staff.
People in residential and aged care, as well as those who work there, will also be prioritised.
Hunt said they also have a targeted campaign to ensure those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are engaged in the program.
“We look forward to welcoming international students in a COVIDSafe way when it is safe to do so. A range of factors including vaccination status will be considered for international arrivals to ensure the protection of international students and the Australian community.”
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