International Rescue Committee in a released statement on Tuesday said, as the wealthy nations being to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, increased concerns rise that billions of will remain behind from receiving COVID-19 vaccine jabs, extending the pandemic and its “devastating knock-on effects”.

The statement added, “shortages in the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, coupled with vaccine nationalism, means the vast majority of people in conflict and crisis-affected contexts – and in low-income and many middle-income countries – will not be able to access a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021, and possibly for multiple years ahead. COVAX – the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income – currently expects the vaccines to reach at most 20% of populations across low and lower-middle-income contexts, with the reality likely much lower”.

The COVID-19 deadly pandemic will not end until everyone is vaccinated, the immunization of humans against the virus requires equitable vaccine distribution in both high- and low-income countries, including refugees and immigrants, an estimated 80 million people lack international protections and access to health systems, the statement read.

Many of these people are mobile and can transmit the virus unless they are vaccinated.

 Other concerns exist around the cold storage currently required for many of the COVID-19 vaccines. This demands investments to strengthen health systems and supply chains to ensure doses can effectively reach places affected by conflict or in areas lacking electricity or specialized equipment.

And another concern is the storage of the COVID-19 vaccinations in ultimate freezing temperatures that require further investments.

Mesfin Teklu Tessema, senior health director for the International Rescue Committee, was quoted in the statement, “To ensure no one is left behind, investments must be made immediately to strengthen health systems. This includes shoring up supply chains, allocating sustainable and adequate financing, and empowering frontline and community health workers, who can deliver care directly to those in need within their local settings”, adding that to implement this “we urge high-income countries to increase their investments to both the COVAX facility and broader humanitarian assistance that remains every bit as essential, especially given the severity of COVID-19’s secondary impacts”. 

Mesfin stressed encouraging high-income governments to share COVID-19 related technologies and “intellectual properties” so other countries can also manufacture these life-saving tools through their own facilities.

“COVID-19 vaccines should be made affordable for low-income countries and distributed in an equitable manner that prioritizes frontline health workers and high-risk populations, inclusive of refugees and displaced communities. Lastly, strengthening the supply side and availability of vaccines must occur alongside efforts to build demand for vaccines. Any campaign must aim to create trust and involve local communities in planning processes”, Mesfin said.

In fragile and conflict-affected areas, 44% of children missed access to the basic vaccines, and outbreaks in other diseases like measles due to COVID-19 will disrupt routine immunization.

IRC and its alliances are aimed to ensure an end to vaccine-preventable diseases and death in fragile contexts.

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  • Mohammad Haroon Alim holds a BBA degree from Kardan University. He works as a sub-editor for Khaama Press.