As Covid-19 vaccines continue to be rolled out across the world, Archbishop John Wilson has joined with the St Francis Leprosy Guild in calling for people with leprosy to be given equal access.
The social circumstances in which people with leprosy often live place them at greater risk of exposure to Covid-19. They are also less likely to have access to running water and other hygiene measures.
Furthermore, stigma and discrimination mean that people with leprosy seeking medical help or food aid during the pandemic frequently receive less support than others.
Archbishop Wilson explained:
“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. 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.”
Clare McIntosh, Director of St Francis Leprosy Guild added:
“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. 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.”
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.”
You can find out more about St Francis’ Leprosy Guild and support its work.