Vaccination efforts should be sped up significantly to protect frontline medical workers, as death toll has reached 17,000, human rights watchdog and international NGOs reported on Friday.
The analysis from Amnesty International, Public Services International (PSI) and UNI Global Union, released on Friday, comes as global inequalities in vaccine access continue to widen.
The report was based on available data published by governments, unions, media, and civil society organisations in more than 70 countries.
Amnesty said the 17,000 deaths from COVID-19, which amounted to a health worker dying every 30 minutes, was a “tragedy and an injustice”.
“This is certainly a significant underestimate because there is a degree of under-reporting in a lot of countries,” Steve Cockburn, the head of economic and social justice at Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera.
“Health workers all over the world have put their lives on the line to try and keep people safe from COVID-19, yet far too many have been left unprotected and paid the ultimate price,’’ Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty International, said.
According to the report, global inequalities in vaccine access continue to widen as over half of all doses have been currently administered in the top ten richest countries, covering less than ten per cent of the world’s population.
Frontline medical workers often bear the brunt of the pandemic with inadequate support, unsafe working conditions and insufficient personal protection equipment, posing severe risks to their health.
“While highly exposed health workers have been prioritised for vaccination in most countries’ national allocation plans, the global inequalities in vaccine access mean that not a single health worker has received a vaccine in over 100 countries,’’ the report stated.
Under these circumstances, organisations have urged governments to prioritise safer working conditions and access to vaccines for frontline health workers, including those professions that are often ignored by such efforts, cleaners, community health workers, social care workers and other auxiliary staff.
“Urgent action must be taken to close the huge global inequalities in vaccine access, so a community health worker in Peru is protected as much as a doctor in the UK,’’ Cockburn said.
The neglect of health care workers has been a pressuring issue in many countries during the pandemic.
In the U.S, an estimated 1,576 nursing home staff have died so far from COVID-19.
In the UK, over 490 social care workers died from coronavirus in 2020, with the death rate of those in the profession being around three times higher than those in the general working population, according to the report.