The European Public Health Alliance has called on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to take action in the monitoring of monitoring of the vaccine distribution within EU Member States, following concerns regarding the risk of delay and exclusion of many vulnerable groups, such as people experiencing homelessness or living in precarious conditions, those without residence or with irregular migration status (such as refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented migrants), persons with disabilities (whether physical, sensory, intellectual or psychosocial disabilities) and their support network, including personal assistants, interpreters and family carers, prisoners, Roma, ethnic minorities, and sex workers, from access to COVID-19 vaccines through national vaccine deployment strategies.
The letter follows an earlier call to the European Commission outlining a 12-point action plan on how underserved populations need to be included and prioritised in national vaccination strategies and makes the following recommendations to the ECDC:
5 recommendations to the ECDC to ensure vaccine equity:
- The ECDC should monitor health inequities and conduct research on long-standing health inequalities, with a view to improving access to the Covid-19 vaccines and to healthcare, for vulnerable communities.
- In order to track vaccine uptake and facilitate exchanges between national vaccination committees, the Agency should engage with EU Member States to collect data on the vaccine deployment to hard-to-reach populations and facilitate exchange of best practices among public health authorities in the Member States on these issues.
- Action-driven strategies should be supported by the collection of disaggregated data and by the development of simple and relevant equity-related indicators, in order to provide consideration for intersecting factors that may place certain groups in the high-risk category.
- We encourage the ECDC to issue guidance accordingly, on integrative and population- adapted health emergency preparedness and response during the COVID-19 pandemic, while considering its relevance for future public health crises and crisis response.
- Promote civil society and community involvement in monitoring, guidance development and support the exchange of knowledge and experience
Recognising ECDC’s internal expertise in vaccine deployment, and on the barriers vulnerable populations face in accessing healthcare; and its work in addressing health inequalities and healthcare access for vulnerable communities, EPHA believes the agency has a vital role to play in strengthening the collaboration among national health authorities, to carry out proper analysis of the vaccine uptake within the EU by all population groups and to provide the related guidance.