The Catholic Archbishop, the Most Reverend John Wilson, has called for Governments to develop special strategies to ensure that marginalised and stigmatised communities, including people with leprosy, receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
"We know from the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom that protecting the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable is a priority," said Most Rev. John Wilson. "As soon as vaccines against Covid-19 are available to every country, it is vitally important that disadvantaged communities, such as those affected by leprosy, are enabled to receive the same benefits from vaccination as the rest of society," Archbishop Wilson said.
Speaking on behalf of a leprosy community outside New Delhi, advocate Arun Kumar said, "People with leprosy would be the last people on earth to receive a Covid-19 vaccine and people with leprosy AND Covid-19 suffer the injustice of "double-discrimination". We need proactive Covid-19 vaccine support for the leprosy community here. They have been isolated and left with nothing during the lockdown. They have had to beg to survive. We must make sure that these people benefit from the Covid-19 vaccine in the same way as other members of society."
The social circumstances in which people with leprosy live in make them more exposed to Covid-19, according to St Francis Leprosy Guild.
Their level of poverty means they are less likely to have access to running water and other hygiene measures.
People with leprosy have reported discrimination. When they are seeking Covid-19 related aid such as medical help, or food aid, they often receive less assistance than those without leprosy.
"From our work with leprosy affected communities across the globe, we know that people with leprosy are so often cut off entirely from society, impoverished, living in cramped and desperate conditions with little access to running water," said Director of the St Francis Leprosy Guild, Clare McIntosh. "It is important that Governments have specific strategies in place to ensure that disadvantaged communities benefit from the same outcomes of Covid-19 vaccines as everyone else. For example, some cities are making vaccines available to vulnerable communities using mobile clinics. A mobile programme enables those individuals who are unable to travel and perhaps live-in remote locations to receive the Covid-19 vaccine."