Amnesty urges South Asian govts to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines

Amnesty International has said the governments in South Asia must ensure that vulnerable groups are not excluded from access to COVID-19 vaccine.

It also urged the international community to enable the production of vaccines at the national-level to address the severe shortfall in supply across the region.

As vaccination programmes have commenced across South Asia, groups including slum dwellers, Dalits, ethnic minorities, workers including labourers, daily wage earners, sanitation workers, garment workers and tea plantation workers, people in rural areas, prisoners, and internally displaced people have so far been denied access due to a lack of awareness and limited access to technology in most places, the rights body said.

An Amnesty press release also said refugees and migrants have been excluded entirely from government vaccine campaigns in many countries.

“With vaccines in short supply, most countries in South Asia have not inoculated more than six per cent of their population with even a first dose, with efforts so far reaching middle and higher-income groups,” Amnesty said urging governments across the world to waive provisions of the global treaty governing rights and patents on properties including medicines.

Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director Yamini Mishra said, “As vaccine campaigns have been rolled out, marginalised groups across South Asia have been effectively locked out by practical barriers. South Asia’s governments must ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for everyone irrespective of caste, socio-economic or other status, race, or nationality.”

“The lack of access to vaccine supply in most countries across the region is a real and pressing concern that needs to be urgently addressed,” she added.