ACFID – Australia’s peak body for international humanitarian NGOs in Australia – is urging the Australian Government to reverse its position on denying priority access to coronavirus vaccines for Australian diplomats, including aid and consular staff. ACFID said reports of denying diplomats vaccinations threatens Australia’s national interest.
Marc Purcell, CEO of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) said:
“Australia’s diplomats are on the frontline working to get Australians home from places where COVID-19 is rampant. Yet, they are being left exposed. We think the Government has the responsibility to protect all Commonwealth employees who are at risk.
“The Government has rightfully specified that Commonwealth employees who encounter travellers as part of their work will be at the front of the queue, yet according to reports, Australian diplomats and consular staff posted overseas are being left out. This is unnecessarily stressful for staff and their families – and if left unaddressed – is clearly an irresponsible approach.
“At a time when DFAT is under pressure and facing multiple consular, geopolitical and development challenges, Australia needs their staff operating at full tilt: assisting Australians overseas; prosecuting Australia’s interests; and building partnerships through helping other nations bearing the brunt of COVID-19.
“The Government has a responsibility to rectify this situation immediately and protect Commonwealth employees who are putting themselves at risk on behalf of Australia.”
ACFID is also requesting priority access for COVID-19 vaccines to essential humanitarian and development workers engaged in the Australian development program.
Australia has a strong track record of assisting neighbouring nations in response to natural disasters including cyclones and tsunamis across the region. Australia’s humanitarian assistance will suffer if diplomats and aid workers are not vaccinated.
“In addition to DFAT staff working at overseas posts, Australian development workers will be assisting in the vaccine roll-out in the region, combatting vaccine hesitancy and are deployed in humanitarian emergencies, alongside diplomatic and defence personnel.”
The International Development Contractors Community – representing aid managing contractors – has joined ACFID’s call.
Stuart Schaefer, Chair of the IDCC, said:
“We have a responsibility to protect our staff wherever they are working around the world. To continue development and humanitarian programs on behalf of the Australian Government, our essential frontline workers need to be protected from COVID-19.”