Access to Vaccines for All
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As countries in Southeastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia have begun to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, it is essential for policy makers to ensure that migrants – regardless of their migration status - are included in each vaccine priority group.
Public health considerations should be the first and only criterion when allocating vaccines, not migration status nor nationality. Migrants in irregular situations should be included in vaccination programmes without fear of arrest or deportation.
Migrants are often at the forefront of the pandemic, providing essential services including health care, cleaning, domestic work, agriculture and food production, and ensuring the continuity of supply chains across the region. They are among those most affected by the crisis and are suffering disproportionately from its social and economic consequences. Loss of livelihood as a result of COVID-19 containment measures has already led to increased levels of poverty for millions of irregular migrants. This weakens their immune systems and exposes particularly vulnerable migrants to heightened risks of infection.
The pandemic has worsened many existing vulnerabilities of people on the move and negatively affected the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Legal status requirements, discrimination, and language issues may present additional barriers for migrants’ access to public health services and information, including COVID-19 vaccinations.
Migrants with irregular status, due to fear of detention and deportation, may be deterred from accessing vaccines, even if they are eligible. Misinformation and lack of trust among migrant and displaced populations is another barrier that needs to be addressed. Their mobility may also make them harder to reach, including during cross-border movement. All of these factors must be taken into consideration in vaccination planning.
Vaccines are critical and cost-effective tools to prevent disease outbreaks and keep communities safe and healthy.
Migrants make a net contribution to gross domestic product and help to fill critical gaps in the labour market. Their positive contribution to society cannot be fully realised unless they are in good health. We must leave no one behind. The inclusion of migrants, including those in irregular situations makes it more likely that we will overcome this crisis. The cost of their exclusion could be devastating.
In our fight against COVID-19, no one will be safe until everyone is.