Covid-19 vaccination programmes across the world are excluding people from marginalized and discriminated groups by failing to take into account their unique circumstances, needs and vulnerabilities, said Amnesty International, in a issued today.
Shortcomings in national vaccination programmes including insufficient or absent data collection, inadequate public information, and a failure to tackle distrust in health institutions and misinformation are disproportionately affecting the ability of groups including women, LGBTI people, Indigenous peoples, and ethnic minorities to access vaccines. These groups are also more severely affected by logistical and technical barriers to obtaining a vaccine and by a lack of civil society participation in the planning and execution of vaccine rollouts.
“Authorities across the world are currently not doing enough to ensure that vaccination programmes reach the most marginalized members of their societies. Common failings mean that states do not have a clear enough picture of Covid-19’s uneven impact on certain groups and that many are not receiving the information or support they need to get vaccinated,” said Rina Kika, researcher at Amnesty International.
“With the surge of Omicron and increasing prevalence of vaccination-based restrictions, it’s imperative that countries urgently address issues causing the inequitable and discriminatory distribution of vaccines.”
States collecting and reporting disaggregated Covid-19 data on the basis of ethnicity or race have reported higher infection and death rates of racial and ethnic minorities compared to other groups. However, only a handful of countries are collecting this data, which is crucial to addressing disproportionate effects on particular populations.
As well as collecting disaggregated information on Covid-19’s impact, Amnesty International is calling on states to collect data on vaccine uptake – currently also sorely lacking in most countries – to monitor the equality of access to vaccines and the extent to which certain groups are being excluded.
States are bound by international law to provide non-discriminatory and equal access to vaccines, which in the Covid-19 context means states must ensure that vaccines are not only available in sufficient quantities, but also that they are accessible to all populations. States must ensure that information about Covid-19 and how to obtain a vaccine is made available in formats that are accessible and understandable to all members of their populations.
Although internet access is unevenly distributed, many countries have continued to post most Covid-19 public information online, which may disproportionately exclude women, older persons, Indigenous peoples, the poor and those in rural areas, while other countries have failed to make information accessible to Indigenous peoples.
Insufficient data and contradictory information from public health authorities on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines during pregnancy created conditions for the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories, as well as false claims about the vaccine’s impact on fertility.
Distrust in health institutions by marginalised groups because of structural inequalities, historic discrimination and abuse by health care providers also influences these groups’ access to and uptake of vaccines. In many countries, efforts to counter misinformation and distrust through targeted public health campaigns have been insufficient or absent.
Amnesty International is calling on states to ensure that public health information on Covid-19 and vaccines reaches all social groups and take steps to address concerns and questions around vaccine safety caused by the spread of false and misleading information.