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The New Arab Staff

Jordan becomes the first country in the world to vaccinate refugees

Jordan has given emergency approval to a number of different coronavirus vaccines [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2021

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Jordan has vaccinated its first refugee and intends to include all those living in the country in its vaccine programme.

Jordan has rolled out its Covid-19 vaccination programme, and become the first country in the world to administer the vaccine to a refugee, according to the UNHCR.

The first UNHCR-registered refugee to be vaccinated was Raia Alkabasi, an Iraqi refugee living in the northern city of Irbid.

The first vaccinations took place at the Irbid Vaccination Clinic on Thursday and were administered by Jordan’s Ministry of Health. 

Jordan previously announced that anyone living in the country, including refugees and asylum seekers, would be eligible to receive the vaccination, free of charge. 

“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,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Jordan has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca/Oxford, and Sinopharm vaccines.

Due to poor living conditions and limited access to facilities, refugees are particularly vulnerable to infection. 

The first recorded case of Covid-19 among refugees in Jordan was registered in September 2020, and since then, a further 1,928 refugees who live in camps have tested positive for the virus. 

An adherence to preventative measures has helped keep the infection rate among the refugee community low. 

Of the refugees tested, 1.6% of have returned positive results, which is lower than the 3% of positive results registered among Jordanians. 

The Hashemite kingdom has officially registered more than 305,000 novel coronavirus cases and nearly 4,000 deaths.

The UNHCR hailed the work of the Jordanian government and urged other countries around the world to follow their example. 

“The vast majority of the world’s refugees are hosted in low- and middle-income countries. 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,” Grandi said.

Read more: Jordan's parliamentary elections: New challenges, old expectations

Vaccinations are also in progress for the residents of the Za’atari refugee camp, which houses almost 80,000 refugees, the vast majority of whom fled neighbouring Syria.

“Indeed, we are scared of being infected. I encourage people. There is a vaccine and it has been tested…It is for our protection,” said Mahmoud, an elderly resident of Za’atari camp.

The UNHCR has called on countries that have started to rollout a vaccine to not neglect the needs of the most vulnerable people. 

According to the UN body, of the 90 countries that have developed vaccination plans, just over half have committed to include refugees.

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