COVID19: how to design fair and inclusive vaccination plans?

Latin America has been especially affected by the COVID19 pandemic. Seven of the fifteen countries in the world with the highest mortality per 100,000 inhabitants are in this region. The crisis has also left serious social and economic consequences, especially for the most vulnerable people. Vaccination is advancing at different rates among the countries of the Latin territory, with different challenges in terms of production, access, storage and distribution, while contagion continues to be high, with new variants of the virus in circulation.

UNESCO, as an organization promoting social inclusion, the human right to science, bioethical principles and open science, has prepared the document COVID-19 and vaccination in LAC: Challenges, needs and opportunities, a work that generates more evidence on coronavirus vaccines, analyzing their production, access and distribution in Latin America and the Caribbean, from an approach focused on bioethical, human rights and open science aspects.

The evidence shows that among people living in poverty, belonging to ethnic communities, there is a higher prevalence of COVID-19 and increases the risk of mortality. However, when analyzing the existing vaccination plans, we find that these groups have not been effectively prioritized by the countries of the region.

Lidia Brito, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office of Sciences for Latin America and the Caribbean.

This report will be presented on August 3 at 11:00 in Uruguay / Argentina, in a session that aims to publicize the main findings and discuss the situation of vaccination plans in the region, sharing proposals capable of accelerating this process, especially within the most excluded groups and those with the greatest socioeconomic vulnerability. You can register here to attend the event.

The event will have the special participation of Gabriela Ramos, Unesco Deputy Director General of Social and Human Sciences. She will be accompanied by Lidia Brito, as well as Soledad García Muñoz – Rapporteur for Economic, Social, Social and Cultural Rights of the IACHR, Alicia Bárcena – Cepal Executive Secretary and Marcela Vélez, researcher at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Antioquia and consultant for UNESCO.

What lessons has the pandemic left in the region? Is it possible to apply criteria to prioritize the vaccination of vulnerable populations? Who to put before? Does Latin America have the capacity to produce its own vaccines and stop depending on external actors? How to prepare for future pandemics? These and other questions will be discussed during the session.

Content synthesis

The document is divided into three parts. The first part describes the state of affairs referring to cases, deaths from COVID19 and vaccination coverage in the region. In the second block, access to and distribution of vaccines in LAC countries is analyzed, especially reviewing the role of traditionally excluded populations (indigenous, Afro-descendant, homeless, population in a situation of human mobility, people deprived of freedom, among others) in the vaccination plans of the countries, as well as the perception that the population has of vaccination.

UNESCO has called for considering the vaccine as a universal public good and ensuring its equitable, affordable and timely access. In addition, they have insisted on redoubling scientific and technological cooperation to accelerate vaccine production and thus guarantee access to as many people as possible in the shortest time possible. Having generated evidence from the study of the vaccination plans implemented in the region, the need to begin to apply equity criteria in said processes is concluded, taking into account not only epidemiological criteria, but also international standards of human rights and bioethics.

It is necessary that countries begin to identify those populations in situations of vulnerability and the barriers they have to access vaccination in order to contemplate them in health plans to combat COVID19. In this way, groups traditionally excluded and strongly affected by the pandemic should be considered, as well as those groups of people whose participation in society is important to guarantee that other people can access health, education, food, among other fundamental rights.

This is even more justified considering that the production of vaccines against COVID-19 in the region is not enough yet and makes it dependent on production in other regions of the world. Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are partial or total producers of some of the coronavirus vaccines, in certain cases designed to help supply the region, but in insufficient numbers for today’s needs.

At the same time, some countries are making very important efforts in the research and development of vaccines against the coronavirus. There are advanced initiatives in Brazil, Cuba and Mexico, and others in earlier phases in Argentina, Chile and Colombia. At the same time, some countries are making very important efforts in the research and development of vaccines against the coronavirus. There are advanced initiatives in Brazil, Cuba and Mexico, and others in earlier phases in Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

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