Ziad AlKabashi, an Iraqi refugee in Irbid, Jordan, is among the first refugees in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. He was prioritized for the vaccine because he suffers from chronic diseases and is considered part of the high-risk category.
Jordan has become one of the world’s first countries to start vaccinations for UNHCR-registered refugees, the UN Refugee Agency, reports today.
As part of the national COVID-19 vaccination plan which started this week, anyone living on Jordanian soil, including refugees and asylum seekers, is entitled to receive the vaccine free of charge. Over the coming months, Jordan aims to vaccinate 20 percent of its population against the virus and has currently procured three million doses of the vaccine to enable this to happen.
Raia AlKabasi, an Iraqi refugee living in Irbid, was among the first refugees to receive the vaccine. “We just want life to be back to normal. The vaccine is the right way of doing this,” she said.
Vaccinations of refugees from Zaatari Camp also started on Thursday, with 43 refugees from the camp travelling to the Department of Chest Infection, health clinic in Mafraq to receive it. Jordan’s Ministry of Health is administering the vaccinations.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, refugees have been generously included by the Government of Jordan within the national response plan, able to access health care and medical treatment as any Jordanian citizens can.
The inclusion of refugees within the national vaccination campaign, therefore, builds on this premise as well as the years of experience in hosting refugees, ensuring their health and wellbeing after fleeing conflict.
“Jordan has included refugees in its national response plan since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Dominik Bartsch, UNHCR’s Representative to Jordan. “Reducing the spread of COVID-19 now necessitates that the most vulnerable people in our society and around the world can access vaccines, no matter where they come from. It is with great pride that UNHCR is contributing to the efforts of the Government of Jordan to achieve this,” he added.
Refugees living in urban areas – who represent 80 percent of the refugee population in Jordan – will be able to receive the vaccine at their local health clinic. For those living in the two main refugee camps, UNHCR is working closely with the Ministry of Health to administer the vaccination.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed among refugees in Jordan in September 2020, 1,992 refugees living in refugee camps have tested positive for the virus. Despite this, there are currently only 194 active cases representing an 88 percent recovery rate. The proportion of refugees with COVID-19 has also remained low at 1.6 percent compared to 3 percent among the general Jordanian population.
Close cooperation between UNHCR and the Government of Jordan and Ministry of Health as well as the strong adherence of refugees to prevention measures, has been key limiting the spread of the virus among these vulnerable populations. Over 200,000 people have enrolled on the national platform vaccine.jo, UNHCR is currently aware of 53 refugees who have already received vaccination appointments.
With the start of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, however, the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on refugees continues to be of primary concern to UNHCR. It is estimated that poverty among refugees has increased by 18 percent since March 2020, with refugees consistently telling UNHCR that they are struggling to meet their basic needs. Two-thirds say they are unable to afford sufficient food and 60 percent have resorted to borrowing money.
In 2021, UNHCR Jordan is appealing for 370 million USD to help refugees, including to cope with the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.