On the Occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the IACHR and the OSRESCER Note the Importance of Prioritizing Older People for COVID-19 Vaccinations

June 15, 2021

Washington, D.C. — On the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Economic Rights (OSRESCER) underlined the urgent need for States to provide care for older people and prioritize them within any immunization plans that they implement, while addressing the specific needs of this population.

To comply with their obligation to guarantee universal access to vaccines for all people within their jurisdictions, without discrimination of any sort and under conditions of equality, States must ensure that there are no limitations that might particularly affect more vulnerable sectors of the population or those that have been discriminated against historically, such as older people. This is in keeping with IACHR Resolution 1/21, COVID-19 Vaccines and Inter-American Human Rights Obligations, and the Press Release of February 5, 2021.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, the elderly are at greater risk from the COVID-19 virus because they have weaker immune systems and sometimes also have more than one chronic disease. Immunizing older people against COVID-19 will reduce their risk of contracting the virus and counteract the negative impact that the containment measures imposed in some countries are having on the mental health of this group. In this regard, the IACHR warned that the pandemic has demonstrated the serious consequences that ageism has on older people's health, well-being, and enjoyment of human rights.

In response, on the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the IACHR and the OSRESCER called on States to provide older people with priority access to COVID-19 vaccines and appropriate information on immunization centers, types of vaccines, access to vaccines, and possible side effects, taking an intersectional and gender approach. They also urged States to guarantee access to COVID-19 testing, timely treatment, and medicines, ensuring full, free, prior, and informed consent, in accordance with inter-American standards on the matter. 

Finally, the IACHR urged Member States to ratify and implement the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons, which was approved by the OAS General Assembly on June 15, 2015, and to use this as a benchmark and as guidelines for developing public policies with a human rights approach.

The OSRESCER is an office of the IACHR that was specifically created to support the IACHR in fulfilling its mandate to promote and protect economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the Americas.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 149/21