We are writing to you on behalf of the millions around the world struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic far from home. Some have been forced to flee wars, conflict, persecution and human rights violations. Others are on the move to escape socioeconomic hardship or the consequences of climate change.
As strangers far from home, many are at risk of exclusion or neglect. Owing to their living situation, many face barriers accessing vaccinations, testing, treatment, care, and even reliable information.
It is a stark reality that some of the world’s poorest countries shoulder the greatest responsibility for supporting displaced people and other people on the move. They need a reliable and adequate supply of vaccines and other critical supplies to stabilize their fragile and over-burdened health systems, to help save the lives of their citizens, migrants, as well as refugees and other displaced people they host.
Yet the current vaccine equity gap between wealthier and low resource countries demonstrates a disregard for the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. For every 100 people in high-income countries, 133 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, while in low-income countries, only four doses per 100 people have been administered.
Vaccine inequity is costing lives every day, and continues to place everyone at risk. History and science make it clear: coordinated action with equitable access to public health resources is the only way to face down a global public health scourge like COVID-19. We need a strong, collective push to save lives, reduce suffering and ensure a sustainable global recovery.
And while vaccines are a very powerful tool, they’re not the only tool. Tests are needed to know where the virus is, treatments including dexamethasone and medical oxygen are needed to save lives, and tailored public health measures are needed to prevent transmission.
As the leaders of the world’s largest economies, you have the power and responsibility to help stem the pandemic by expanding access to vaccines and other tools for the people and places where these are in shortest supply.
We welcome the fact that this weekend’s summit in Rome will call for “courage and ambition” to tackle some of the greatest challenges of our time, and specifically the need to recover from the pandemic and overcome inequality. We collectively call on you, G20 leaders, to commit to:
1. Increase vaccine supplies for the world’s poorest: We call on the world’s leading economies to fully fund and implement the Strategic Plan and Budget for the ACT Accelerator, and to distribute vaccines, tests and treatments where they are needed most. If we are to recover from the pandemic, we must—at a minimum—meet the targets to vaccinate 40% of the world’s population by year-end— and 70% globally by mid-2022.
2. Ensure access to vaccines for all people on the move: We call on every country to ensure that everyone on its territory regardless of legal status—including refugees, migrants, internally displaced people, asylum-seekers, and others on the move—have access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatment for COVID-19. They should adopt concrete measures to remove barriers to vaccination for everyone on their territory—for example the need for specific documents, geographical barriers, the requirement in some settings that health care seekers are reported to immigration authorities, high fees—and fight misinformation that fuels vaccine hesitancy.
3. Support low- and middle-income countries to combat COVID-19 with all available means: Low- and middle-income countries need comprehensive support—financial, political, technical, logistical—to vaccinate people quickly and effectively to expand access to tests and treatments, to implement tailored public health measures, and to build more resilient health systems to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond rapidly to future health emergencies.
We urge you to take swift action to ease the pandemic’s devastating human toll.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Director General, International Organization for Migration
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General, World Health Organization