- PPI Web desk
Geneva: Most countries in the world started campaigns to vaccinate their populations against the deadly virus COVID-19. To ensure that no-one is left out, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is supervising the inclusion in the vaccination drive of 82.4 million asylum seekers and forcibly displaced persons in 162 countries. The UNHCR approached States to accelerate and speed up vaccination drives and to remove possible barriers hindering refugees and Asylum seekers to access vaccination services.
Most of the countries assured UNHCR their commitment to ensure that all displaced people will be vaccinated. In 91 out of the 162 countries already begun the vaccination process for asylum seekers and refugees.
Chief of UNHCR’s Public Health Section, Ann Burton said, “Around the world, we have seen an unwavering commitment to not leave refugees behind in COVID-19 vaccination planning,” adding “But barriers to vaccination persist. Stronger efforts are needed to ensure that States’ assurances for refugee inclusion turn into tangible reality.”
Proof of Identity is essential for vaccination in most countries, which makes it difficult for those refugees who have no identity documents. Also, digital registration for vaccines limits the access for people with either no Internet or who are digital illiterate.
Long distances to vaccination centers can be another hindrance and discouragement to seek vaccine, if refugees and their families are forced to spend additional money on transportation to the next vaccination center, as it is the case in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Other factors such as expenses of vaccine services, misinformation or lack of information and language barriers lead to vaccine hesitancy.
There are states which have overcome such hurdles and have shown how it can be done. Serbia and Moldova for example, prioritized the vaccination for refugees living in asylum centers and private accommodations. In Cameroon and Senegal refugees can go and register for vaccination in city councils or health facilities in their hosting communities. To ensure equity in vaccine distribution, Portugal introduced a specific registration system for people with no documents. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 1.7 million people, including refugees have been reached to through awareness-raising campaigns on COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic.
By the end of 2021 UNHCR says that 20 per cent of forcibly displaced people should be vaccinated. To achieve the targeted goal set by COVAX, the UNHCR extends their support to all countries. The Agency calls on nations with abundance of vaccine doses to assist lower and middle income countries by supporting the COVAX facility.
“Beyond the moral imperative, this is in our collective self-interest,” Ann Burton said, adding “As long as the pandemic remains out of control somewhere, it is threat for everyone everywhere.”