We at CIEE value beyond any other consideration the health and safety of all members of our worldwide community, including program participants, staff, instructors, and homestay families.
Our mission is to humanize international relations and foster peace through international education and exchange programs that promote intercultural understanding. And we cannot continue bringing the world together in a way that honors our ideals if we do not do all we can to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 and its variants between and within the communities in which we live and work.
Alongside our other prevention measures, vaccination significantly increase protection for all members of the CIEE community. Therefore, in 2021 we instituted a policy requiring all members of the CIEE community, including all American participants traveling abroad, exchange visitors coming to the U.S., and international and domestic CIEE staff to be fully vaccinated no later than January 1, 2022. In December 2022, due to the changing nature of COVID-19 risk management, we updated our policy to no longer require the vaccination for American participants traveling abroad effective May 15, 2023. We will continue to monitor global health patterns and update our policies, as appropriate.
CIEE Vaccination Policy for Outbound Participants
For all CIEE outbound programs, including college study and intern abroad, high school study abroad, gap year, and teach abroad programs, starting on or after May 15, 2023, CIEE strongly recommends, but will NO LONGER REQUIRE participants to be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, CIEE cannot limit exposure to COVID or unvaccinated persons during travel or in program countries. Participants travel at their own risk. Download the updated policy.
If you need to request a COVID-19 vaccine exemption, please contact your enrollment advisor.
Adapting to the Changing Nature of COVID-19 Risk Management
COVID-19’s impact and how the world manages it is changing, in particular following the highly-infectious Omicron variant global surge of early 2022. One of the more apt assessments made is that while the pandemic isn’t over, the acute or emergency phase of the pandemic appears to be coming to a close. Many countries, including the United States, are acknowledging the decoupling of case numbers during the Omicron surge from the numbers of severely ill and hospitalized compared to previous variants. Further, virus containment and elimination strategies have largely been abandoned by most countries (including the United States) as the Omicron variant made it clear that it was extremely difficult to stop this new variant from spreading with the standard mitigation measures of the past and COVID-19 eradication has become impossible. Even after the acute or emergency phase of the pandemic, in the “post-peak” phase which we appear to find ourselves in, further case waves and viral variants are expected – but are expected to have a diminishing impact on society and individuals over time with less disruptions to daily life.
Fundamentally, SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 is becoming more manageable and we are likely in a new phase of the pandemic due to:
- The increasing prevalence of vaccinated individuals and vaccine availability
- The high numbers of previously infected and recovered individuals
- Increasing availability of enhanced treatment options
- The possibility of the reduced risk nature of some new variants themselves (e.g. Omicron Variant) - however this seemingly less-dangerous Omicron variant/sub-variants could be due to the combination of the three mitigating factors above more than anything about the nature of the variant itself
To align with this new phase of the pandemic, CIEE is further adjusting its COVID-19 response protocols, as we have continued to adjust throughout the pandemic to best ensure the safety of our students and staff while also maintaining an excellent academic and program quality experience. CIEE is adjusting its COVID-19 protocols away from a one-size-fits-all global approach/protocol (masking, testing, isolation, quarantines, contact-tracing, etc…) toward one more locally informed.
As the locality of specific health situations should guide appropriate mitigation measures (or the reduction thereof), CIEE global COVID-19 safe protocols will shift to mirror local health regulations. Going forward, and effective immediately, local regulations and recommendations around testing, quarantines, masking, social distancing, contact tracing, and other mitigation/response measures will guide CIEE actions in each of our countries of study.
CIEE will treat COVID-19 like any other potentially infectious illness and apply the appropriate isolation and quarantine standards for that location, as well as for all inhabitants if in a shared living arrangement. For this again, local health regulations and/or recommendations will be the standard. Should there be circumstances where these appear lacking, leaders at our local teams will apply more stringent requirements as they deem necessary according to the health situation at their location. Similar to how most of the United States is approaching COVID-19 mitigation and response now, there are few if any local laws requiring masking or isolation, yet the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains recommendations for masking and isolation/quarantine that members of the community can follow should they choose. CIEE locations will likewise follow their local country and city health officials guidance and recommendations for ongoing mitigation and response measures. Also, of course, as should be done with any contagious disease, if an individual is experiencing symptomatic disease/illness, they should not come to class or work until those symptoms fully resolve regardless of local guidelines.
To borrow a nice shorthand from our partners at the University of Cape Town, our ongoing mitigation and response measures will focus on vaccination, ventilation, and vigilance - the three V’s:
Vaccination: The overwhelming scientific evidence and consensus shows that the individual being current on their vaccines provides the best protections against severe illness. With the thousands of CIEE students we have hosted abroad over the last several semesters fully vaccinated, zero students have experienced severe illness due to an active COVID-19 infection. While this doesn’t mean that everyone is impervious, it does strongly suggest the risk to our vaccinated students is very low.
Ventilation: CIEE will continue to prioritize securing classrooms with appropriate ventilation for all CIEE classes. In locations lacking or with poor centralized ventilation, other means such as the use of fans, ionizers, and the opening of windows doors will be employed as needed.
Vigilance: CIEE Center Staff will continue to monitor local COVID-19 developments and our Health, Safety, & Security (HSS) team will continue to monitor broader country COVID-19 conditions. Based on our Center Staff’s assessment of local conditions, with further HSS team guidance as needed, they will have the latitude to impose additional mitigation and response measures they feel appropriate when local practices and recommendations are deemed insufficient. Participants will be reminded that they play a key role in protecting their health as well as the health of their fellow participants, host families, CIEE staff, and communities. For both staff and participants, as should be done with any contagious disease, if an individual is experiencing symptomatic disease/illness, they should not come to class or work until those symptoms fully resolve, regardless of local guidelines.