Jordan has become one of the world’s first countries to start COVID-19 vaccinations for refugees, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has reported.
Jordan hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees from the region’s conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya.
Raia Alkabasi, an Iraqi refugee living in the northern city of Irbid, was the first UNHCR-registered refugee in the country to receive the vaccine at the Irbid Vaccination Clinic..
Jordan’s Ministry of Health is administering the vaccinations.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said: “Once again Jordan has shown exemplary leadership and solidarity in hosting refugees."
“The country has included refugees in every aspect of the public health response to the pandemic, including the national vaccination campaign, proving how it should be done if we are to keep everyone safe."
“I appeal to all countries to follow suit and include refugees in their vaccination drives.”
As part of Jordan’s national COVID-19 vaccination plan, which began on January 14, anyone living in the country, including refugees and asylum seekers, is entitled to receive the vaccine free of charge.
The UN refugee agency says it is working closely with Jordan’s Ministry of Health to administer the vaccination to those housed in the Zaatari and Azraq camps for Syrian refugees.
Through the vaccination program, Jordan intends to inoculate one in four of the ten million population in the country.
Earlier this month, Jordan struck a deal with Pfizer and partner BioNTech to buy 1 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine and another 2 million doses from the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, with talks underway for more.
Authorities hope to vaccinate between 20 percent and 25 percent of citizens over the coming months. More than 200,000 people – including refugees - have so far signed up since registrations began.
National authorities are responsible for public health responses and COVID-19 vaccination programs.
According to the UNHCR, of the 90 countries currently developing national COVID-19 vaccination strategies, 51 have committed to include refugees.
“The vast majority of the world’s refugees are hosted in low- and middle-income countries,” said Grandi. “The international community must do more to support host governments with access to the vaccines. Global and equitable access is what will ultimately protect lives and stem the pandemic.”
Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed among refugees in Jordan in September last year, 1,928 refugees living in refugee camps have tested positive for the virus. The proportion of refugees with COVID-19 has also remained low, at 1.6 per cent, compared to three per cent among the general Jordanian population.