As the world moves towards the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic response, equitable access to vaccines and treatments will be vital to saving the lives of the most vulnerable people. Those living in humanitarian emergencies or in settings that are not under the control of national governments are at risk of being left behind and must be part of COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Including all individuals, regardless of legal status, in national allocation plans is critical, particularly in settings characterized by armed conflict, violence and natural disasters, all of which exacerbate the challenges of vaccination activities on the ground. Leaving these people behind would undermine humanitarian principles and compromise efforts to end the pandemic.
Experience shows that even for routine vaccinations, and despite governments’ best efforts, some people inevitably fall through the cracks. Therefore, in support of national government obligations, the IASC has continued to advocate for vulnerable populations to be part of planning processes, including successfully advocating with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for the establishment of a COVAX humanitarian ‘buffer’. This buffer will ensure that up to 5 per cent of the COVID-19 vaccine doses procured through the COVAX Facility will serve as backup stock and to support providers of last resort for at-risk populations. At the direction of the IASC Principals, a task force on the COVID-19 Vaccine Humanitarian Buffer was formed and is working with Gavi and other partners to better define the operational modalities of this COVAX buffer, such as distribution and allocation criteria for at-risk people and the frontline humanitarian workers assisting them, including NGOs, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and United Nations agencies, among the country allocations.