Garment workers aren’t getting enough information around immunization against COVID-19 and many don’t have access to the vaccine either.
According to a report from Dhaka-based research nonprofit South Asian Network on Economic Modeling and Microfinance Opportunities, only 2 percent of garment workers in Bangladesh have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The report included insight from 1,285 workers, the majority of whom are women, surveyed across industrial sectors in Bangladesh including Chittagong, Dhaka City, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Savar.
The lack of access to the vaccine comes amid a sudden surge in coronavirus cases in countries like India, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, where apparel and footwear production hubs often hold thousands of workers in close working proximity and a dozen to a room in sleeping dorms.
According to the report, while 69 percent of respondents said they were willing to get the vaccine — the majority remain in the dark on how to obtain vaccinations. Only 22 percent cited access to adequate information regarding immunization.
Many workers were confused on whether they were even eligible for the vaccine.
Dr. Selim Raihan, executive director of SANEM, attributed the lack of reliable data to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, saying the government agency failed to conduct any detailed study on the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.
Transportation was highlighted as another obstacle.
“The data clearly indicate that workers do not have access to adequate information related to COVID-19 immunization. This is a concern because inability to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines will put millions of garment workers, who are employed in one of our most crucial industries, at risk,” the report noted.
The research is part of an ongoing project titled “Garment Worker Diaries.” Since April 2020, the organizations have been collecting monthly data for the purpose of highlighting opportunities where policymakers and other stakeholders can bolster recovery for the labor market and the macroeconomy.
Already, geographic and demographic inequality, rising poverty and fewer decent jobs will characterize the labor market amid the COVID-19 recovery, as per the International Labour Organization. One key element, according to the survey, is to prioritize the health and safety of workers.
How are brands helping to bridge this gap?
Some retailers and brands have stepped up efforts to vaccinate workers.
In the luxury space, Gucci and parent company Kering joined Italy’s vaccination campaign in March with Gucci announcing it would open up its corporate offices to more than 6,000 employees for the vaccine.
Prada, Giorgio Armani, Brunello Cucinelli and OVS have also led efforts in vaccinations. Meanwhile, Amazon offered on-site vaccination to front-line workers while Target even offered to pay workers to get vaccinated.
Further upstream, the Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union started a campaign in April to drive uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine, by debunking myths and challenging inequity with the goal to “set an ‘industry immunity target” at 80 percent of the sector.
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