Refugees—living in crowded conditions ripe for the spread of the virus—are at high risk for COVID-19 but low priority for vaccines. And the majority live in low-and middle-income countries that have had a harder time securing the jabs,Devdiscourse reports.
The WHO put refugees high on its priority list, but countries that counted on COVAX have been let down, according to the AP. Examples:
- Bangladesh added ~1 million Rohingya refugees to its vaccine plan in February, but the country has received only 110,620 doses—less than 1% of its allotted share—so far from COVAX, and refugees have been left out.
- Uganda’s Bidi Bidi camp started refugee vaccinations, but less than 2% of the 200,000 refugees had received a single AstraZeneca shot when India stopped exporting them after its own cases exploded.
- Language barriers and misinformation
- Fear of arrest or deportation: In Montenegro, Red Cross volunteers are accompanying migrants and refugees when they get their shots to help protect them from arrest.
- Liability: Under COVAX, humanitarian organizations can apply to distribute vaccines—but they’re wary of the requirement to accept liability for side effects.