Vaccine inequality putting refugees and Canadians at unacceptable risk, warns new report and poll by World Vision

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Joanne Legin
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Highlights:

  • Vaccines needed immediately; Millions of refugees impacted by vaccine inequality and discrimination
  • 87% of Canadians believe variants can emerge from refugee camps, with global consequences 
  • World Vision urges Canadians to hold the Government of Canada accountable to help end the global pandemic everywhere 
Anwara, 27, huddles with her children under a tarpaulin after a fire destroyed her home in the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has postponed Covid-19 vaccinations for nearly one million Rohingya refugees living in the world’s largest refugee camp, the only group in the country that has not yet had access to the vaccine. Photo: Xavier Sku
(June 15, 2021)
A World Vision report and poll released ahead of World Refugee Day reveals that refugees and internally displaced people are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 yet remain the lowest priority group when it comes to vaccinations and health services. This puts millions of the world’s most vulnerable people and Canadians at risk of contracting new, highly transmissible variants of the virus, says the agency.   

The High Risk- Low Priority report warns that COVID-19 is now surging in lower income countries that do not have adequate resources to contain the virus and protect their own populations. A survey of forcibly displaced people across eight locations reveals that forty million displaced people in low-income countries have little or no access to already-limited vaccination programs those countries are currently able to deliver. In fact, vaccinations are as low as 0.1% in some countries.

Additionally, a new Abacus Data poll, commissioned by World Vision, confirms that the majority of Canadians (87 per cent) recognize that people living in refugee camps continue to face massive risk because of the global pandemic, while also acknowledging that Canada needs to help stop the spread of the virus everywhere before a full recovery can begin at home. 

“While every vaccine that we can share vaccine is helpful, overall Canada’s vague commitments at the G7 may be too little, too late. The current global vaccine gap is appalling, far worse than most Canadians realize,” says Michael Messenger, President and CEO, World Vision Canada. “Canadians have clearly told us that as a country we should be concerned for the needs of people beyond our borders, and they realize that people living in overcrowded refugee camps are the most at risk from more deadly and infectious mutations of the virus. Canadians know we will not be safe until everyone is safe. A real global recovery must include inclusive, fair and equitable access to life-saving vaccines and treatment.”

Key findings: High Risk – Low Priority World Vision report:  

  • 84% of all available vaccine doses are being administered in high income countries with as few as 0.1% in the lowest income countries that host large numbers of displaced people, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Millions of forcibly displaced people have no means to protect themselves; 40% of host countries do not have a vaccination plan for the forcibly displaced that live within their borders.
  • Only one person out of 1,914 people surveyed by World Vision had received a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Key findings: Abacus Data poll of Canadians commissioned by World Vision Canada:

  • A large majority of Canadians (85%) are worried about new variants of COVID-19 developing somewhere else and coming to Canada.
  • 74% of Canadians feel that with our world being so interconnected, a return to normal cannot be possible until the spread of the disease is under control across the globe.
  • 87% of Canadians believe that a variant emerging from a refugee camp has the potential to make its way into Canada and potentially even put us back into a restricted lifestyle. Nearly 8 in 10 Canadians think that the scenario might happen.

In response to these findings, World Vision immediately launched a new campaign, calling on Canadians to hold the Government of Canada to account to meet its G7 commitments: to ensure everyone has access to COVID-19 vaccines and can leave the pandemic behind.