We Will Never Get To Herd Immunity Unless Governments Vaccinate Stateless People

Governments Have Spent Decades Excluding Minorities From Citizenship, Which Is Awesome News for the Virus

Israel has emerged as the vaccine roll-out star of the middle phase of the pandemic, but many have rightly pointed out that it’s hard to call any vaccine program a success when it doesn’t cover everyone. While Israeli citizens get their jabs, the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories must wait.

Nothing will help COVID-19 more than an uneven vaccine roll-out. Any time a population is excluded from receiving the vaccine, the virus will have more chances to mutate and re-infect everyone. As scientists have been trying to explain for months, this is true everywhere, from Israel to South Africa: no one is safe until everyone is safe, including the undocumented and stateless.

Unfortunately for all of us, when it comes to statelessness, it will not be easy for governments around the world to undo in a matter of months what they have spent decades of political capital and money creating: a system that excludes the stateless from health care. The whole point of creating a class of stateless persons is to remove them from the body-politic and shut them out from assistance programs like vaccines. While experts talk about “vaccine passports,” millions have no form of ID at all and no way to get one.

Things have gotten so bad in many countries that governments do not know how many stateless people they have. Many stateless people live a life devoid of contact with governments, except when they are being arrested, detained or deported. Such a system of erasure is not conducive to a mass vaccination program, even where governments willing to temporarily declare truce in their war on minorities and decide to grant them access to a vaccine.

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