The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on individuals and communities worldwide, particularly those belonging to vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples. As such, providing adequate protection and support to these groups is imperative. To address this issue, the Coalition for Vaccine Access for Indigenous Peoples and Vulnerable Groups was established as a collaborative effort to ensure equitable access to vaccinations.
The Vaccine Access Coalition emerged from the collective efforts of various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that have expressed concern and support for safeguarding the welfare of indigenous communities and vulnerable groups from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coalition aimed to accelerate the distribution of vaccines to these groups and ensure that they receive fair and equitable treatment.
On January 31, 2024, the Vaccination Access Coalition for Indigenous Communities and Vulnerable Groups successfully organized an Appreciation event to acknowledge the efforts of the Coalition. This event, held in Jakarta, was attended by over 60 participants, including members of the Health Access Coalition, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the Indonesian Philanthropic Health Cluster, regional partners, communities, and other stakeholders.
Over the last three years, from 2021 to 2022 and 2023, the Vaccine Access Coalition has successfully provided the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 276,528 individuals. Education and outreach programs regarding the importance of vaccination have also reached more than 124,166 people. This activity has spread to 151 districts in 27 provinces in Indonesia.
In his address, Gusman Yahya, the Director of the Filantropi Indonesia, lauded the multi-stakeholder collaboration as a successful model that has positively impacted access to health for the community. However, he acknowledged that the implementation of this model is not immune to natural challenges and coordination issues, which would be used to evaluate future collaboration implementations. Complex health challenges and evolving societal dynamics necessitate continuous innovation and the involvement of more stakeholders.
The Vaccine Access Coalition, in this instance, supports and expedites COVID-19 vaccination and other supporting activities for vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities, disabled individuals, farmers, fishermen, the elderly, female heads of families, transgender groups, and residents without identity registered number in various regions in Indonesia, particularly in remote areas that have not received vaccination services from the government.
Dr. Prima Yosephine M.K.M, the Director of Immunization Management at the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia, noted that the collaboration between the government and the Coalition in the COVID-19 pandemic has promoted equality in access to vaccines and health for all strata of society.
The Coordinator of the Vaccine Access Coalition, Hamid Abidin, also emphasized that the various initiatives developed by the Coalition demonstrate that inclusive health services must be the concern and awareness of all parties. The realization of this inclusive service requires tremendous effort and resources, and all parties must contribute according to their capacity and resources.
The present study highlights the successful collaborative efforts undertaken by multiple stakeholders, including the Health Service, Village Government, TNI, Polri, regional/branch collaboration partners, media, and others to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccination process for indigenous communities and vulnerable groups. Joint activities, such as preliminary examinations, assistance for disabled beneficiaries, communication media, education, and information, have been provided to ensure equitable access to quality health for every citizen.
The Vaccine Access Coalition has expressed gratitude to all the stakeholders and members who have contributed and collaborated in this endeavor. The Coalition has also provided a platform for regional partners and invited guests to share their stories and best practices. The People Helping the People program by WALHI, the NIK recording program for the Rimba Tribe by LTKL, OHANA’s empowering activities for disability groups, PEKKA’s efforts in eradicating hoax issues regarding COVID-19 vaccination and citizen bulletins, Rumah Zakat’s campaign “Together We Face Corona,” and HWDI’s inclusive, disability-responsive activities are among the noteworthy initiatives shared by the participants.
As the vaccination program for indigenous communities and vulnerable groups nears completion, the Vaccine Access Coalition has decided to transform into the Health Access Coalition to continue promoting inclusive health access for vulnerable groups. Coalition members, including Filantropi Indonesia, HWDI, LTKL, OHANA, PEKKA, PIRAC, PPMN, WALHI, and KPA, attended the agreement to form this new Coalition.
The Coalition’s future commitment is to advocate for the rights of every citizen, particularly vulnerable groups and indigenous communities, to have equitable access to quality health. The endeavor aims to ensure that no one from vulnerable groups and indigenous communities is left behind in the fight for inclusive and sustainable health. The Coalition’s leaders, including Hamid Abidin and Rina Prasarani, have emphasized the importance of continuing the collaborative efforts and building on the existing partnerships to promote health equity.