Devex Newswire: Who is responsible for vaccinating foreign aid workers?

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The global equity gap in vaccine distribution is “grotesque,” says World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. What does that mean for development professionals deployed overseas?

As governments around the world undertake the largest vaccination effort in the history of public health, experts have urged them to prioritize high-risk groups — health care workers, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions. Many development professionals stationed abroad fall into those categories, but the question of who is responsible for their immunization varies from one country to another, Sara Jerving reports.

  • Criticism erupted in Kenya in March after Reuters reported the country offered COVAX Facility-supplied COVID-19 vaccines to between 25,000 and 30,000 diplomats, United Nations workers, and their families living in the country. Government officials countered that doing so is part of their responsibility in hosting a large number of diplomats.

  • In many countries, foreigners and diplomats have been prioritized for inoculation if they fit the priority group that the host government has set up — “which is indeed a very, very good thing,” says Dr. Richard Mihigo of WHO’s Regional Office for Africa.

  • The U.S. State Department is shipping vaccines to its embassies in hopes of vaccinating all overseas personnel — including with USAID — as supplies become available. For its domestic workforce, USAID says there will be no distinction between direct hire and contractor staff.

Read Sara’s report on the vaccination puzzle for overseas officials.

GOING LOCAL

Sponsored by Bay Area Global Health Alliance:
Q&A: Tackling advanced HIV disease and stigma in key populations

Access to HIV treatment and care can be particularly difficult for a number of groups such as men who have sex with men, and sex workers. Devex spoke to a former sex worker turned advocate about the challenges facing the LGBTQ community in Malawi.

“The Peace Corps works hand-in-hand with communities on their most pressing challenges, and right now the U.S. faces some of the biggest challenges in our country’s history.” — Peace Corps Acting Director Carol Spahn in a statement.

On Wednesday the Peace Corps announced that it will deploy volunteers to support COVID-19 vaccination centers inside the United States. Among those eligible to participate are the more than 7,000 volunteers who were evacuated from their posts in March 2020.

BORDER DISPUTE

Civil society groups want the World Bank to use its influence with governments to ensure its $12 billion in COVID-19 vaccine financing is transparent, distributed fairly, and that vaccines purchased with bank funding are free to access. World Bank officials say there are questions of national sovereignty to consider, reports Jenny Ravelo.

Devex Pro: Kristalina Georgieva says the pandemic has pushed IMF “out of our comfort zone.”

COMPLIANCE COSTS

A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found USAID failed to ensure subcontractors in the West Bank and Gaza complied with anti-terror regulations, Teresa Welsh reports. Aid groups have argued these laws, many of which were enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, are overly broad and need to be updated.

ICYMI: Experts hope President Joe Biden will adopt new US approach to countering violent extremism

UP IN THE HEIR

The race to replace Mark Lowcock as head of the U.N. humanitarian office is heating up. The big question is whether Secretary-General António Guterres will maintain the U.K.’s “de facto monopoly” at OCHA, or back an open process, reports Ben Parker at The New Humanitarian — who went fishing for names of potential contenders:

Nick Dyer, U.K. special envoy for famine prevention and humanitarian affairs
• Harriet Mathews, director for Africa at the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Olof Skoog, EU ambassador to the U.N.
William Chemaly, a Lebanese human rights and humanitarian protection specialist
Koen Davidse, a Dutch executive director at the World Bank
Joanne Liu, formerly international president of Médecins Sans Frontières

IN THE NEWS

Kenya has once again threatened to close two huge refugee camps in the country, housing almost 400,000 refugees, in a move that has alarmed UNHCR and donor organizations. [The Guardian]

Johnson & Johnson put future vaccine shipments from one factory in the U.S. on hold after about 15 million doses were ruined by an ingredient mixup. [New York Times]

Rates of stillbirth and maternal deaths rose by around a third during the pandemic, with pregnancy outcomes getting worse overall for both babies and mothers worldwide, according to an international data review. [Thomson Reuters Foundation]

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.