International Students vaccinated outside of Europe cannot get an EU-approved vaccine pass from the Swedish health authorities. Masters student Diego Manrique reveals how this has impacted his Lund University experience.
For several months now, international students in Lund who were vaccinated outside of the EU and a number of affiliated countries have been unable to receive a vaccine pass approved by the Swedish health authorities. While many international students have struggled to get their passes due to not having a Swedish personal number (“personnummer”), this is a separate issue. Concerning the former, a much-anticipated solution has been promised by the Swedish health authorities for February first. In the meantime, however, this has had a profoundly negative impact on the international student experience.
Diego Manrique, a Masters student in development studies, is one of many impacted by this frustrating issue. The twenty-five-year-old who moved to Lund this past semester has still not been able to obtain his vaccine pass despite being fully vaccinated with Moderna, an EU-approved vaccine, in Guatemala.
”I’ve been trying to find a mechanism to get it validated or acknowledged […] But it’s impossible to do so, at least so far. In France or other countries, if you don’t have a vaccination pass that’s EU compatible, they issue you one as long as you have an official document to prove that you have the same vaccine. So, for instance, before coming, I had my official certificate from Guatemala translated by a sworn translator. So it was a legal translation. And I was hoping that that would be enough to validate it here since it’s the same vaccine, it’s the same conditions. But it’s not.”
This situation has become a source of frustration and confusion for Diego Manrique: ”I don’t know what the reason is for not accepting it. I would understand if it were because the vaccine isn’t recognized here. After all, then the legal framework would prevent them from accepting it. But since it’s the same vaccine, I don’t see the point. You feel discriminated by it; it’s just because you got the vaccine abroad, but it’s the same vaccine. […] There is no valid reason other than that you got it abroad.”
While initially, Sweden’s covid strategy did not require any proof of vaccination, making this issue, while annoying, not a serious impediment, this changed in early December and thus began to alter Diego Manrique’s daily life. ”I had to think about whether I could see people, or for instance […] if I wanted to go to a concert for Christmas, I needed to check before whether they would accept me or not. […] It also can make things more expensive […] I know a lot of people that have booked an activity or an event, and then they lost the money because they couldn’t get in, even though they had everything that they were required to.”
He reveals that others faced with the same imposition on their social lives resorted to more drastic measures. ”I know about other students from Guatemala that are in the same situation, and because they were not able to get the vaccine pass, they got vaccinated again here.”
On the other hand, this choice seems understandable when casting an eye towards the future. As Diego Manrique testifies, if a solution is not presented soon, the issue might escalate from a mere nuisance to encompassing all sectors of daily life if the proof of vaccination requirement were to become more commonplace. ”I do shape my day-to-day around that because I need to keep in mind that I might not be allowed places. I need to always consider that […] I cannot prove it, or I can prove it, but they won’t accept it. It’s just an extra reason to worry. I feel this is relevant on the individual level, […] but also institutionally because if eventually it’s required in more places, it doesn’t feel attractive to be here because you’re restricted from doing things that you should have the right to do.”
The Swedish Health authorities have promised a solution by February first, a delay due to legislative issues from their original January first promise. Diego Manrique hopes that soon his pass can be converted to an EU-approved format so that he may enjoy the authentic Lund experience that fellow students vaccinated within the EU can.