Guidance on Equitable Access to Covid-19 Vaccine

UNODC Research Reveals Impact of Covid-19 on Smuggling of Migrants. Photo: UNODC
UNODC Research Reveals Impact of Covid-19 on Smuggling of Migrants. Photo: UNODC

A number of reports indicate that migrants may be more vulnerable to poor health because of their often low socio-economic status.

All migrants should be included in Covid-19 vaccination programmes regardless of their nationality and migration status, experts from the UN, African, European and Inter-American human rights systems urge in a new Guidance Note. The experts stress that vaccine registration should not be used to collect information about an individual’s migration status and shared with immigration enforcement authorities.

The Guidance Note, jointly issued by the UN Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and regional human rights experts, offers six key proposals regarding vaccine distribution. It calls on States to take into account the vulnerabilities, risks and needs of those migrants who are most exposed and vulnerable to coronavirus when drawing up their prioritization lists for vaccination.

“In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the rights to health and non-discrimination are fundamental and indispensable. To overcome the pandemic and leave no one behind, these rights must be guaranteed to all migrants regardless of nationality and migration status. All migrants must have access to the vaccine on an equal basis with nationals,” the experts said.

“A number of reports indicate that migrants may be more vulnerable to poor health because of their often low socio-economic status, the process of migration and their vulnerability as non-nationals,” they added.

Regarding the organisation of vaccination campaigns, the experts called for there to be clear firewalls between immigration enforcement and the provision of Covid-19 vaccines. They cautioned that public information campaigns should make it clear that migrants in irregular situations will not be penalized or targeted for immigration enforcement when seeking access to Covid-19 vaccination. “Nobody should be afraid to seek the care they need,” the experts underscored.

They urged States to develop coordinated strategies and mechanisms of cooperation and assistance to guarantee universal and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, and to take into special consideration countries that face economic obstacles in securing vaccines for their populations, including migrants and their families. The Guidance Note is now available online.

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Rakesh Raman