Add a cut in skilled migration, which would make it harder for international students to obtain permanent residency in Australia, along with a rise in xenophobia because of the coronavirus, and it all cumulates in what Mr. Sun describes as a feeling of increasing “hostility” toward international students from some quarters.
But he still maintains that the majority of Australians are welcoming. While the Chinese government has advised prospective students to avoid Australia because of racism, Mr. Sun is encouraging his relatives to come here to study, pointing to local community leaders, certain politicians and charities that rallied to support international students.
With distribution of a coronavirus vaccine beginning in the U.S., here are answers to some questions you may be wondering about:
- If I live in the U.S., when can I get the vaccine? While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.
- When can I return to normal life after being vaccinated? Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.
- If I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask? Yes, but not forever. Here’s why. The coronavirus vaccines are injected deep into the muscles and stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. This appears to be enough protection to keep the vaccinated person from getting ill. But what’s not clear is whether it’s possible for the virus to bloom in the nose — and be sneezed or breathed out to infect others — even as antibodies elsewhere in the body have mobilized to prevent the vaccinated person from getting sick. The vaccine clinical trials were designed to determine whether vaccinated people are protected from illness — not to find out whether they could still spread the coronavirus. Based on studies of flu vaccine and even patients infected with Covid-19, researchers have reason to be hopeful that vaccinated people won’t spread the virus, but more research is needed. In the meantime, everyone — even vaccinated people — will need to think of themselves as possible silent spreaders and keep wearing a mask. Read more here.
- Will it hurt? What are the side effects? The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection into your arm won’t feel different than any other vaccine, but the rate of short-lived side effects does appear higher than a flu shot. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. The side effects, which can resemble the symptoms of Covid-19, last about a day and appear more likely after the second dose. Early reports from vaccine trials suggest some people might need to take a day off from work because they feel lousy after receiving the second dose. In the Pfizer study, about half developed fatigue. Other side effects occurred in at least 25 to 33 percent of patients, sometimes more, including headaches, chills and muscle pain. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign that your own immune system is mounting a potent response to the vaccine that will provide long-lasting immunity.
- Will mRNA vaccines change my genes? No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.
Kalyana Vania, a 21-year-old student at the University of Melbourne, spoke matter-of-factly about how her mental health deteriorated to the breaking point during Melbourne’s strict lockdown.
“At one point, it really got to me,” she recalled. “I was thinking: ‘Why am I here? Wouldn’t it be better if I just disappeared? At least then my parents wouldn’t need to pay to support me.’” But the silver lining, she said, was that the incident finally pushed her to see a professional and address underlying mental health problems.
For the students, a resilience born from spending years navigating an unfamiliar country with minimal support has morphed into an unhesitating willingness to step up and take care of one another other when government support is lacking. When their peers could not afford food, international student groups sourced and distributed free food packs. When they believed that their voices weren’t being heard, they became student representatives and got involved in political parties.
The holiday season is no different.
Archit Agrawal, 21, unable to fly back to India to spend time with his family, is helping organizing Christmas dinners for students in similar situations. Everyone will bring a dish from his or her own culture, and they’ll sing carols together.
“We’ve become a second family this year,” he said. “We spent most of this year together; we shared all our problems. It feels right to spend Christmas with each other.”