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UNHCR calls for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for refugees

UNHCR Calls for Equitable Access to Covid-19 Vaccines for Refugees

GENEVA – On World Health Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), calls for concerted international action and solidarity to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for refugees and other forcibly displaced and stateless persons.
UNHCR is encouraged that 153 states have adopted immunization strategies that include refugees. Yet in many parts of the world, actual immunization remains a challenge, in large part due to the uneven availability of vaccines and the capacity of health systems.
“The glaring imbalances observed in the sharing of vaccines between states are counterproductive and short-sighted. A ‘my country first’ approach simply cannot work in a pandemic that knows no borders,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
To date, around 20 countries have started immunizing refugees on an equal basis with citizens. Recent examples include Serbia and Nepal, which have come on the heels of other states, such as Rwanda and Jordan.
“We commend these countries for their exemplary dedication and leadership. By including refugees in their vaccine distribution, they mitigate the risks associated with exclusion and discrimination,” said Grandi.
These risks range from consequences for the general public health situation to limited access to services or reduced freedom of movement.
UNHCR remains committed to the allocation principles of the COVAX initiative – the global effort to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines reach those who need them most.
Some 85% of the world’s refugees are hosted in low and middle-income countries, facing financial challenges and fragile health systems. These countries, which continue to generously host the bulk of refugees, need more support to meet the urgent health needs of their nationals and refugees, including with Covid-19 vaccines.
UNHCR has worked closely with governments, national health authorities and other partners to help respond to the devastating effects of Covid-19.
UNHCR has incorporated most of its Covid-19 response plans into its 2021 global appeal, but urgently needs an additional US $455 million to meet the additional needs. The agency received contributions and pledges totaling 13% of its Covid-19 appeal.

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