Each year AFS participants receive immunizations while on an AFS program. These immunizations can be school related or not (such as the influenza vaccine) and AFS does not require an AFS specific consent form and the COVID-19 vaccine is the same.
Should a participant both become eligible and request to receive a COVID-19 vaccine(s) while on program, the participant should speak with their sending parent(s)/guardian(s) in their home country to obtain permission for the vaccine. If the US healthcare facility requires parental/guardian permission the participant should arrange to obtain their sending parents’/guardians’ signatures for these form(s). AFS does not require special permission or a consent through the AFS organization.**
Like all other vaccines, these are considered "routine" and do not require AFS approval prior to receiving the vaccine while on program. However, it is critical that the participant's parent(s)/guardian(s) have given their consent.
The COVID-19 vaccine, as with any other vaccine, is not covered under the Travel Medical Plan and any costs associated with obtaining the vaccine will also be the responsibility of the participant and the sending parent(s)/guardian(s). For ECA Sponsored Programs participants (CBYX, FLEX, and YES), if there is a cost involved in a participant receiving the COVID-19 vaccine while in the US, the cost will be covered by program funds.
What if the local volunteer team and/or hostfam are not comfortable speaking with (or do not yet have access to speak with) the sending parent(s)/guardian(s) and participant about their COVID-19 vaccine openness/status?
Prior to program, your Regional Field Specialist can request the Hosting Operations staff to reach out to the AFS Sending Partner for information if the host family/local team are not comfortable having a discussion about the vaccine with their participant (after the participant is FPC) or if the host family/local team are trying to decide upon a participant and the host family has requested a participant who is either vaccinated or open to being vaccinated upon arrival (and therefore needs information about their openness/status prior to FPC).
Once the participant is on program, if a host family is interested to know the student’s vaccine status and/or the sending parents’/guardians’ position on their child receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and is not comfortable discussing this topic with the participant directly, the host family should reach out to their AFS volunteer liaison for guidance. The AFS liaison can follow up with AFS Participant Support Department staff for further guidance.
AFS-USA has included COVID-19 vaccine related content in the Host Family Handbook Addendum. Please refer to this document for information provided to the host family on this topic.
Should any questions or concerns arise during the participant’s program which requires additional assistance, please contact our Participant Support Department 1-800-AFS-INFO, press 3.
** Please Note: ECA Sponsored Programs (CBYX, FLEX and YES) participants and their sending parents were required to sign a Department of State COVID-19 Vaccine Permission Consent document prior to program. The AFS liaison, Area Team Support Coordinator and host family will be notified, in advance, if a participant and their parents do not consent to a COVID-19 vaccine. If you have not been notified it means that AFS has consent on file and the participant can proceed with obtaining their parent(s) signatures for the healthcare facility specific form.
Will AFS require participants, host families and/or volunteers to have the COVID-19 vaccine?
AFS strongly advises that participants, host families and volunteers follow CDC guidance related to the COVID-19 vaccine but does not require the COVID-19 vaccine as a requirement to be involved with the organization.
Any COVID-19 vaccination requirements for our hosted participants would come from the federal, state, local governments or the school, not from AFS.
Further, AFS does not require host families or volunteers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. The decision and ability of AFS to mandate vaccinations implicate operational and legal challenges which pose significant burdens and risks that AFS-USA is not equipped to handle and to take on.
We do strongly encourage participants and their parent(s)/guardian(s) to follow CDC recommendations, and participants must meet the school vaccines requirements. However, we defer to the recommendations of the participant’s physician, in consultation with the parent(s)/guardian(s), for any medical related decisions.
It is possible that travel and/or visa requirements may include the vaccine in the future.
What if the host school requires the AFS Participant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
AFS participants have been advised, prior to program, that school related immunization requirements must be met as part of their participation in an AFS program.
If a school requires the COVID-19 vaccine or any other immunization and the AFS participant does not have a medical or other reason to not receive the vaccine(s), the AFS participant will need to comply with this requirement or risk not being able to begin or complete their program.
If a participant has received a COVID-19 vaccine that does not meet host school requirements (e.g., Sinovac, Sinopharm, Sputnik), a host school may request the participant receive a qualifying vaccine. If you experience this challenge and need support in discussing with the sending parent(s)/guardian(s), feel free to contact your Support staff who can help you to successfully navigate.
What if the AFS participant has questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or the host family has questions about the AFS participant being eligible/receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?
If the AFS participant has questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, encourage them to discuss this topic with their host family and sending parent(s)/legal guardian(s). If the AFS participant would like additional resources share the CDC Key Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines with them.
If the host family has questions about the AFS participant eligibility/parental permission to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or any other immunization(s), encourage the host family to speak with their primary care physician regarding eligibility.
If the host family requests for the AFS participant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine, and is not comfortable approaching this topic with them or their parent(s)/guardian(s), please reach out to your Regional Field Specialist if it is prior to the student’s arrival. If the student is already on program in the US, please reach out to your Participant Support Specialist for guidance.