Column of Zoran Dimov: Are the Roma in the last place of priority for Covid 19 vaccination?

After the explosion of the Covid 19 pandemic all over the globe, besides the battles to prevent the virus, one of the priorities to find the vaccine. At the end of 2020, the vaccine was found, and the preparation and distribution, as well as the plans for its realization. However not everything goes as planned. Even the WHO mentioned that even the most developed countries aren’t fully prepared for the realization.

According to an American report, the African-American and the Latino-Americans are less covered within the vaccination process in relation to the other citizens in the US – as said by the CNN analysis, informs the Anatolia Agency (AA).  According to the analysis over 4% of the white population, and only 1.9% of the African-Americans and 1.8% of the Latin-Americans.

This crisis reveals a collective weakness and an unequal access to the vaccine. Because many countries are suffering economically due to the pandemic, there is a higher chance that firstly only the economically stable countries will have access to the vaccine. And this simply, as proven in the past and the deeply rooted prejudices, this is predicted to happen to the Roma population in the countries.

The EU agency for Basic Rights (FRA) researched this situation in great detail in 15 countries members of the EU, focusing on the education: employment; poverty; healthcare; housing; and anti-gypsysm. He also highlighted the efforts of the civil society in order to solve the different challenges which are carried by the COVID - 19 pandemic. In the meantime the limited access to water, electricity and sanitary conditions are creating serious health issues – devastated by the various barriers to access of health services. The lack of basic infrastructure is a problem for all of the communities. This gives birth to the opinion that the Roma in this period will be among the last on the list for vaccination. In the meantime, the Roma community is “not convinced” that there will be equal access to the vaccine. That is why the opinion regarding the vaccine and its use is divided among the Roma community. This is implemented in the findings of some conducted analysis, tests and field research.

This division is almost equal everywhere where there are Roma, no matter if they are in the more developed or less developed countries within Europe.  This includes the Roma from the Eastern European block (Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine and the Russian Federation). This trend is also visible among the Roma from the Western Balkan (Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro), as well as the Roma who live in Western and Central Europe, and even those in the north.

This has been pointed out in the conducted analysis from the Crisis Office of the IRU, which is already sent to the European Institutions and high representatives of the European Policies.  The reason behind this skepticism within the Roma community regarding the immunization and the trust of the vaccines is based on the fact that during the COVID – 19 pandemic, there was a devastating escalation of populist and racist voices in many European countries with the intention to blame the Roma community who live marginalized communities for this pandemic. Some of these measures were led by racist narratives which presented the Roma as a collective threat to the public health and safety and made measures for quarantining only the Roma communities.  This indicates the opinion that, when the vaccination process begins, they will start the other way around. This means that most of the countries where the ghetto and the Roma settlements were blamed for spreading the disease, won’t be on the priority list for immunization, instead, they will be at the bottom of the list.

To prevent the spread of the virus. In all communities, government efforts should be focused on raising awareness of human rights principles that protect the most vulnerable, both in the short term and beyond. Serious and vigorous confrontation with structural, racial and social inequalities that continue to expose Roma to greater health risks is needed.

That is why my fellow Roma, be prepared for such scenarios!

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