COVID Vaccines – Migrants, Refugees, “people on the move”

Milestones :: Perspectives :: Research

 

COVID Vaccines – Migrants, Refugees, “people on the move”

Blind spots continue to prevent access to COVID-19 vaccines for refugees and migrants, new Red Cross and Red Crescent report says
Geneva, 30 June 2021 – New research conducted by the Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab across more than 50 countries reveals that refugees and migrants continue to face serious obstacles in accessing COVID-19 vaccines. Despite some progress made in policy, the equitable inclusion of refugees and migrants in vaccination strategies and plans is far from universal.

The new study, Sight Unseen: A vision for effective access to COVID-19 vaccines for migrants, takes stock of current global trends in migrants’ access to COVID-19 vaccines and builds on findings of an earlier report released in March 2021 by the Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab on the impact of COVID-19 on migrants’ access to essential services. Research draws on publicly available data from a wide range of sources, including academic institutions, governments, the United Nations, media and civil society organizations and is complemented by insights and cases studies from a survey of 52 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working directly with migrants and host communities around the world.

Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “While some progress has been made on paper to include all migrants in vaccination strategies and plans, research insights indicate that – in practice – some groups, particularly undocumented migrants, are still left out. Ensuring everyone has access to COVID-19 vaccines is not just the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective; it is also the smart thing to do from a health and socio-economic standpoint.”

Across the global survey, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies identified the following main barriers to migrants’ access to COVID-19 vaccines: 90% of respondents pointed to limited information about where and how to get the vaccine; 80% to vaccine hesitancy due to fears of side effects; 67% to language; 60% to lack of required documentation; 50% to fears of arrest, detention or deportation; 50% to limited vaccine supply; and 33% to complex registration processes…

 

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UNAIDS, IOM: People on the move living with HIV must have access to COVID-19 vaccines
30 June 2021
Migrants, refugees, internally displaced as well as crisis-affected and mobile populations who are living with HIV must have equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, said the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

People on the move are often more vulnerable to diseases, including COVID-19 and HIV. In addition, people living with and/or affected by HIV and migrants often experience significant inequalities. They frequently face health hazards due to sometimes perilous migration processes, substandard living situations, dangerous working conditions, as well as general lack of information, stigma, discrimination and isolation.  Migrants and displaced people also face a great number of administrative, financial, geographic, social and cultural obstacles in accessing health care with regularity or continuity of care across borders – including access to HIV treatment.

During the pandemic, against a backdrop of rising xenophobia and discrimination, some migrants living with HIV found themselves facing a triple stigma related to (1) testing positive for COVID-19, (2) having a positive HIV status, and (3) being a migrant, all of which also often had serious negative consequences on their mental health. For many migrants and displaced persons living with HIV and other autoimmune diseases, or at risk of contracting HIV, risk exposure went up while availability of HIV services went down.

“To end inequalities and get the global response to HIV on-track to reach the 2030 target of ending AIDS as a public health threat, we must act immediately to reduce the inequalities experienced by migrants and mobile populations. This includes full access to HIV prevention and treatment services and to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS ahead of the 48th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board Meeting taking place next week in Geneva, Switzerland. A progress report on HIV services for migrant and mobile populations as well as refugees and crisis-affected populations will be presented at the meeting.

“Both the global AIDS response and the COVID-19 response are leaving millions of people behind, including many migrants and forcibly displaced persons,” stated IOM Director General António Vitorino. “We’ve seen that neglecting the health needs of marginalized groups can be devastating for communities. Together, all countries should pledge not to let it happen again.”…

 

IOM and UNAIDS urgently call on governments to take concrete action to ensure that national COVID-19 vaccination campaigns include all migrants with co-morbidities such as HIV, in line with WHO’s prioritization recommendations, and that every effort is made to remove the barriers many of them still face in accessing health services, including stigma and discrimination…