Expats struggle to get vaccines in Kuwait, as citizens come 1st

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In the tiny, oil-rich sheikhdom of Kuwait, the foreigners who power the country’s economy, serve its society and make up 70% of its population are struggling to get coronavirus vaccines.

Unlike other Gulf Arab states that have administered doses to masses of foreign workers in a race to reach herd immunity, Kuwait has come under fire for vaccinating its own people first.

That leaves legions of laborers from Asia, Africa and elsewhere, who clean Kuwaiti nationals’ homes, care for their children, drive their cars and bag their groceries, still waiting for their first doses, despite bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

When Kuwait’s vaccination registration site went live in December, authorities declared that health-care workers, older adults and those with underlying conditions would be first in line. As weeks ticked by, however, it became increasingly clear the lion’s share of doses was going to Kuwaitis, regardless of their age or health. Initially, some expat medical workers said they couldn’t even get appointments.

Kuwait’s labor system, which links migrants’ residency status to their jobs and gives employers outsized power, prevails across the Gulf Arab states.

Main Photo: People wait for their turn to receive a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the make-shift vaccination centre in Kuwait, Kuwait city . EPA-EFE/Noufal Ibrahim

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