Refugees left out of Covid-19 vaccination exercises

By Jurugo Emmanuel Ogasto

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in different camps who were at high risk of contracting Covid-19 claimed that they were left out of Covid-19 vaccination exercises in Uganda.

Earlier, World Vision reported that,amongst 8 countries, including Uganda, warned that Covid-19 was by then surging in lower income countries that did not have the resources needed to contain the virus and protect their own populations.

Despite identifying refugees as a priority group and targeting them as part of the national vaccine rollout, Uganda was among the nations struggling to climb the vaccination ladder and whose health systems were by then overwhelmed due to another wave of the pandemic.

With just about 1,000,000 of its own citizens vaccinated, the country was still constrained to cover the 1.4 million refugees.

Only 500 refugees out of 1,914 surveyed in Uganda, Brazil, Colombia, DRC, Jordan, Peru, Turkey and Venezuela had received a Covid-19 vaccine, yet almost half of them said they were willing to take the vaccine if it was available to them.

“With less than 45% of Ugandans vaccinated, it is a challenge to reach the refugees, but extra effort must be made to prioritise the refugees because they face the highest risk from Covid-19 especially given the confined space they live in and the communal facilities they share,” said Mary Njeri, the Refugee Response Director at World Vision Uganda.

The report indicated that, higher income countries were vaccinating their populations 25 times faster than nations with lower incomes and have ensured that their most vulnerable people were protected. World Vision said they must now secure the same protection for the world’s most vulnerable.

“The Covid-19 vaccine race has exposed an ever-growing health gap between the world’s ‘haves’ and ‘have notes,” the report noted.

The survey showed 68% of the respondents had not even heard of plans for vaccinations in their communities, 47% thought they were not eligible or did not know they were.

It also indicated that 40% felt that children in the community were less safe while 68% said they could not meet healthcare needs.

Last week at the G7, world leaders pledged to donate one billion Covid-19 vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable.

World Vision called on donor governments to ensure that this pledge turns into a reality and to secure equitable access to the vaccine for forcibly displaced people as a priority.

Despite more than 190 countries committing to COVAX, an initiative which aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses for at least 20% of the most vulnerable and high risk-groups by the end of 2021, deliveries are both underfunded and delayed.

“No one will be safe until everyone is safe. There will be no global recovery without inclusive, fair, and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostic equipment, and medicine,” Njeri said.

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