Jordan is one of the first countries to start COVID-19 vaccination among refugees, according to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. The first refugee vaccine was an Iraqi refugee living in the northern city of Irbid, named Raia Alkabasi.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees saluted this initiative, stating that Jordan should be perceived as an example of leadership and solidarity concerning the conditions under which the refugees are hosted. More precisely, Jordan has included refugees in its public health scheme during the pandemic, proving that taking care of refugees’ health means taking care of the whole population’s health. He also called for other countries to follow Jordan’s example.
Jordan’s national vaccination scheme applies to everyone living in the country including therefore refugees and asylum seekers, who are entitled to get the vaccine, free of charge.
The inclusion of refugees in the national vaccination scheme is the result of a close cooperation between the UNHCR and the Government of Jordan as well as the Jordanian Ministry of Health. What is more, the refugee population in Jordan showed a strong adherence to the prevention measures implemented, which limited the spread of the virus in the facilities hosting refugees. Since the first case reported in Jordan, 1,928 refugees living in refugee camps have tested positive for the virus. The proportion of refugees infected with COVID-19 is estimated at 1.6 percent, a considerably low percentage compared to those infected among the general population of Jordan, a percentage which is estimated at 3 percent.
The good administration of refugee’ conditions by Jordan can be attributed to its history, as Jordan has hosted a large number of Palestinian refugees in the 1970s.
Among the 78 countries that are currently developing national COVID-19 vaccination schemes and strategies, only 38 of them have included refugees in their vaccination planning, according to the UNHCR. The UN Refugee Agency is advocating the inclusion of refugees in these schemes through the COVAX Facility, which is a global initiative that ensures cooperation between governments and manufacturers to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines reach those in greatest needs, including refugees. This initiative considers low and middle-income countries to be priority countries for global support.