International students in OK eligible to receive vaccine

International students in Oklahoma will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines free of charge when it becomes available, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

“Yes, if they are living here for the purposes of school, we will vaccinate,” said Keith Reed, the health department’s deputy commissioner. “That helps break transmission of COVID in the state.”

According to Reed, international students will receive vaccines in Phase 3 of the state’s vaccine priority population framework, which includes “teachers, students, residents and administrative staff in educational settings outside Pre K-12.”

However, the health department currently does not have an estimate of when Phase 3 will begin.

“Oklahoma’s progress through the priority phase plan for vaccine distribution depends on two things: vaccine supply from the federal government, and local vaccine uptake,” Reed said. “It will take some time and our efforts will continue over the days, weeks, and months following initial receipt of the vaccine.

“We ask for patience and understanding as we progress through this complicated endeavor.”

Han Seth Lu, a UCO international student from Myanmar, said that he was relieved to have this confirmation from the health department.

“With the past administration, it was up in the air if international students would get the vaccine or not,” Han said. “I’m actually just glad that, now, it’s clear that we’re going to get it.”

Han said he wants to be vaccinated not only for his health but also for the sake of the people he meets as an early childhood education major.

“I feel like I interact with both vulnerable populations,” Han said. “A lot of my professors are over 60, and I also deal with kids.”

Han said that he will have to interact with kindergarten students in person this semester to complete 60 clinical hours in teaching and assessment for his degree.

While it is unclear when the vaccines will be available for students, Han said that it is “not a huge concern” for him to get it now because he is not in the vulnerable population.

Han said he would recommend other international students get the vaccine.

“International students tend to travel a lot,” Han said. “We may travel back home or we may use spring break weekends to visit somewhere.

“I do recommend it for the sake of people they will be interacting with, especially because UCO has a huge faculty and staff population who are in the range of vulnerable populations.”

According to data from the Open Doors Report on Educational Exchange (, there were 7,328 international students in Oklahoma in 2020, with 843 coming from the University of Central Oklahoma.

When the vaccines are available, the health department said they recommend students to receive the vaccines even if they have already contracted COVID-19.

“You should wait until 90 days after you test positive for COVID-19 to get the vaccine,” Reed said. “Since this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last, but the CDC reports it likely lasts around 90 days.”

On Jan. 28, the health department reported that 10% of eligible adults in Oklahoma had received at least the first dose of the vaccine, which is about 373,279 doses.

According to Reed, getting either COVID-19 vaccine may come with side effects, saying the majority were of “mild to moderate severity” and a “very few” were serious events.

“Most of the side effects reported are in line with other commonly received vaccines, such as your annual flu shot, including pain at the injection site,” Reed said. “Other commonly reported side effects include muscle aches, headache, fatigue, and shivering and occasionally fever.”

He also said that side effects are more noticeable after the second injection.

Those who are interested in getting the vaccine can pre-register at Email notifications will be sent out when the appropriate phase begins.

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