EHS-COVID (414) Lancet: Protecting refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic

18 June, 2021

The editorial in The Lancet alludes to our discussion on 'Maintaining essential health services during COVID-19' in relation to vulnerable populations, and yet I feel we have only scratched the surface of the issues. Can you say more about this from your own experience, whether in relation to refugees, those living in poverty, or other vulnerable groups?

CITATION: Protecting refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Lancet. Published: June 19, 2021DOI:

... The COVID-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on the 26·3 million refugees worldwide today. International guidelines and national programmes to curb transmission have not always considered the needs of refugees living in densely populated shelters without water and sanitation facilities. The economic harms of the pandemic disproportionately affect the poorest people, applications for asylum and resettlement were disrupted by lockdowns, and refugees have been blamed for spreading SARS-CoV-2...

Vaccination is the central pillar of global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but most refugees face a double burden of vaccine inequity. First, 86% of refugees live in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs)... Second, many LMICs that have received vaccines are not prioritising refugees. For example, in Bangladesh, where 2·5% of the population is fully vaccinated, not a single dose has been administered in Cox's Bazar...

... refugees and asylum seekers more generally have suboptimal access to primary health-care services. Language barriers contribute to a deficit of accurate information, and social marginalisation has allowed misinformation to spread, fuelling vaccine hesitancy...


Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,