A homeless person gets a health checkups at a medical mobile unit in Rome | Photo: ANSA/Massimo Percossi
A homeless person gets a health checkups at a medical mobile unit in Rome | Photo: ANSA/Massimo Percossi

Humanitarian organization Intersos has called for equal access to vaccines against COVID-19 for migrants in Italy, 'to guarantee everybody's health'. The organizations says that hundreds of thousands of people aren't eligible to get vaccinated; and that many migrants who are eligible face 'linguistic, cultural and administrative obstacles.'

Humanitarian organization Intersos said in a statement released last week that there will be no end to the coronavirus pandemic without equal access to the vaccine for migrants.

"In order to guarantee everybody's health, it is necessary for everybody to have access to the vaccine against COVID-19. As of today, however, parts of the population in Italy can't get the vaccine", the organization said. Hundreds of thousands of people in Italy don't have access to coronavirus vaccinations, according to Intersos.

Access to coronavirus vaccine

"The problem regarding access to anti-COVID vaccinations," said Alessandro Verona, the medical chief of Intersos, "is that ... the national healthcare service ... is out of reach for some of the most fragile parts of the population."

This includes migrants and refugees who do not (yet) have a stay permit, immigrants "hosted in government-run facilities who don't have access to the national healthcare service for administrative reasons" and trafficking victims, as well as many Roma, Sinti and Caminanti people living in makeshift settlements or occupied buildings and many Italian and foreign homeless people, the organization said.

Many migrants who are eligible to get immunized face "obstacles of a linguistic, cultural and administrative nature that don't allow them to book or get a vaccine," according to Intersos.

Attempts to solve the problem

These problems are handled differently in different Italian regions.

In Rome, some local health agencies ASL (Roma 1 and 2), in collaboration with associations active on the territory, have drafted lists of vulnerable people, including those without a health card, that need to be vaccinated. Several projects were launched, aimed at making vaccinations accessible, such as a vaccination hub opened by the Community of Sant'Egidio for homeless people, including migrants without housing.

In the southern region of Puglia, in particular in the city of Foggia, ASL agencies are vaccinating seasonal migrant workers that have been included in lists drafted, among others, by Intersos.

In Sicily, NGOs also organized a COVID-19 vaccination campaign open to all, including undocumented migrant farmworkers.

Vaccinations for migrant farmworkers, homeless people

"The vaccination campaign needs to be for everybody, including migrant and homeless people. And this is true for the fight against the virus as well as for each human battle," said Cesare Fermi, Intersos chief for Europe. "We are in the midst of a phase described as the 'fourth wave' in which we are trying to fight the pandemic with as many vaccinations as possible. There is no rational reason not to include all people present on the national territory in the vaccination campaign."


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