Approaching the third year since the WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and consecutive pandemic, the spread of COVID-19 remains a global threat to public health, exacerbating existing inequalities and negatively impacting the enjoyment of human rights. Although vaccination coverage is central to achieving the strategic goals for COVID-19 response set out by the WHO, equitable and universal access to and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines remains a challenge, disproportionately impacting marginalised communities globally. As of May 20224 , almost one billion people in lower-income countries remained unvaccinated, and only 57 countries had vaccinated 70% of their population (nearly all of them high-income countries). People who use drugs and people deprived of liberty have been historically marginalised and invisibilised in the design and implementation of public health strategies and policies, and global pandemic responses were no exception. Although both groups are at high risk of contracting the virus and having health complications, they remain mostly invisible to policymakers and the international community, leading to limited access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
This submission will focus on challenges, practices and opportunities related to the inclusion and prioritisation of people who use drugs and people in prison in the design, planning, and rolling-out of COVID-19 vaccination programs.