Roza, a 86-year-old refugee, is busy with housework around her small cozy apartment in Tashkent. You can hardly guess her age looking at her face and bright eyes. She is full of energy making plans and determined to implement them.
Now, Roza’s main goal is to visit her grandson, who lives in Russia. Though travel is complicated with current restrictions, Roza is getting ready. Therefore, once she was invited for vaccination against COVID, Roza did not hesitate a minute.
“Of course, I talk to my grandson by phone. But he is eight years old, and I have never seen him in real life, I have seen him only on the phone screen, and it’s not the same… I want at least once to be a real granny for him. I want to do what grannies should do. I want to hug him, to bake cakes for him… It is difficult for me to travel, but I still want to do it. And I got vaccinated to do it.”
Roza was the first refugee, who was vaccinated in Uzbekistan, receiving her first shot in April 2021. This became possible thanks to a government decision to give refugees and stateless persons living in Uzbekistan access to COVID vaccination on par with citizens.
She has a few age-related diseases, her legs hurt while walking, which did not prevent her from getting vaccinated as soon as possible. Recalling her visit to the hospital, Roza keeps praising medical staff who helped her: “Everything was well done. I didn’t feel any pain. Doctors were very attentive. They checked my condition, blood pressure, temperature. I didn’t have any fears.”
Roza was not only the first refugee, who got vaccinated in Uzbekistan, she was the first person in her neigbourhood too. With a little chuckle she tells how neighbours bombarded her with questions once she returned home from hospital.
“I keep telling them: go and get vaccinated. Look at me, nothing has happened to me. Protect yourself. Everyone should be healthy. No one wants us to be sick.”
She is a bit frustrated that her relatives were also slow to be vaccinated, and some of them have been infected. Looking at Roza, they finally decided to go to hospital and get vaccination.
Uzbekistan, like Turkmenistan included asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons in national COVID-19 vaccination plans on par with citizens, while in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan it is left to local health authorities to decide whether to allow asylum seekers, refugees, or stateless persons with free-of-charge vaccination.
The UN Refugee Agency continues offering support to the development and implementations of vaccination plans which will help to protect everyone – leaving no one behind, including refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons.