Vaccine Equity Project

Vaccine access is a feminist issue

Global health as a discipline grapples with how to best address disparities in health outcomes and care delivery worldwide, with the health of women, adolescents and children being a World Health Organization priority. In particular, the WHO states that gender gaps, harmful cultural and social practices, and gender-based violence are primary concerns for these individuals. Given that inequities in vaccine distribution already exist at the international scale, it is not surprising that women, children, and adolescents are among the most disadvantaged. Indeed, children and adolescents have limited access to COVID-19 vaccines in comparison to adults because fewer vaccines have been approved for their age groups by regulatory entities. Additionally, children are more likely to be living in poverty than adults. Beyond availability of vaccines or other treatments, children and adolescents may also be limited in their ability to legally consent to care.

 

Ensuring equitable access to vaccines is ultimately a feminist issue because vaccination protects the health of communities, particularly its most marginalized members. Women themselves benefit from vaccines, and so do the beneficiaries of female-dominated professions such as teaching, childcare, and nursing. Women have also disproportionately lost work during COVID-19 due to caregiving responsibilities. Vaccines are especially important for pregnant people, who are at increased risk of complications due to illness. Additionally, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a variety of health services being delayed, ranging from cancer care to sexual and reproductive health. This refocusing of priorities has had adverse impacts on women's health, and vaccination could limit further adverse impacts due to infection.

 

Thus, a feminism that recognizes the variety of lived experiences for women, children and adolescents will emphasize distributive justice when it comes to vaccination. A historical and feminist approach allows policy makers to account for these disparities in vaccine distribution.