The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in certain populations, which may include refugees and migrants, particularly those in irregular situations. Refugees and migrants may face a range of individual, social, and physical barriers that underpin their decisions, motivation, and ability to receive COVID-19 vaccine and may result in transmission and severe disease and death.
On 14th March 2022, WHO released Strengthening COVID-19 vaccine demand and uptake in refugees and migrants, a new operational guide aimed to promote COVID-19 vaccination uptake and tackle vaccine hesitancy among refugee and migrant populations through a range of strategies, actionable recommendations, and good practices for understanding and addressing barriers. The guide identifies seven priority areas for interventions for policymakers, planners, and all stakeholders responsible for COVID-19 vaccine rollout to these populations:
- Social and behavioural data collection and use to understand barriers to vaccination uptake and develop tailored, evidence-informed strategies and communication plans.
- Coordination, policy and planning to reduce disease and death burdens of COVID-19.
- Implementation of communication strategy including a mass media plan to ensure refugees and migrants are aware of when and where to get the vaccine, its benefits and safety, requirements for accessing vaccines, and changes to policy and practice (e.g., entitlement to health care).
- Social media monitoring and infodemic and misinformation management to prevent the spread of false or inaccurate information and its impact on vaccine confidence.
- Community engagement and social mobilization to increase trust and social cohesion, and ultimately reduce the negative impacts of COVID-19.
- Capacity-building and training to strengthen and expand the capacity of health systems and provide health literacy education programmes regarding health services to refugees and migrants.
- Monitoring, learning and evaluation of activities linked with the National Deployment and Vaccination Plans (NDVP) and performance indicators, to show the effectiveness of interventions during the vaccine rollout and to correct where needed.
Developed based on global evidence and expertise, the guide supports the operationalization of the recent WHO interim guidance COVID-19 Immunization in Refugees and Migrants: Principles and Key Considerations.