In January of this year, Jordan became one of the first countries in the world to start vaccinating refugees. In a global race to fight the pandemic, nations have prioritised vaccinating their own citizens. Jordan’s decision to include refugees, not only emphasises the country’s humanitarianism, but also sets an example for the rest of the world.
Anyone living in Jordan, including refugees and asylum seekers, are able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge. As Jordan is home to around 750,000 refugees, in addition to 2.3 million Palestinian refugees, this is by no means a small feat. The country aims to vaccinate 20% of its population, including refugees, and has acquired 3 million doses to get the job done.
Raia Alkabasi and her husband Ziad, were among the first refugees in Jordan to receive the vaccine. Originally from Iraq, the couple were prioritised due to Ziad having a chronic disease. Raia, upon receiving the vaccine at the Irbid vaccination clinic, stated her gratitude and excitement at being able to hug her friends and family again.
The head of the Irbid vaccination clinic, Ali Alzetaye, stated that “regardless of everything, they are refugees, like our brothers and sons who are present in Jordan. If we do not vaccinate them, and only vaccinate Jordanians, then the pandemic will persist.” Though seemingly logical, Alzetaye’s views are not reflective of a global movement to vaccinate refugees. In order to successfully break the chain of COVID-19 transmission, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 70% of the global population must have acquired immunity from the virus. Despite this, of 90 countries currently developing national COVID-19 vaccination strategies, the UNHCR reported that only around half had committed to vaccinating refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons. This decision has a two-fold effect; damaging the livelihoods of refugee populations, and also obstructing the global fight against coronavirus.
In order to combat this vaccine nationalism, WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), came up with a solution – COVAX. COVAX represents an impressive global alliance that works to research, develop, and manufacture COVID-19 vaccines and negotiate their pricing. COVAX emphasises the importance of all countries having access to vaccines. This includes everyone from frontline health workers, to high risk and vulnerable people.
A representative from GAVI, Wambui Munge, spoke to CRP about the necessity of other countries to follow in Jordan’s footsteps. Munge stated that “it is indeed critical for global recovery from the current pandemic that high-risk populations, irrespective of their legal, social or economic status, have timely access to COVID-19 vaccines as they begin to be rolled out. This includes high-risk segments of the refugee population.”
At CRP, we really miss our face-to-face classes and the interaction we have with our community. Yet, we are still hopeful that returning to a pre-COVID-19 environment will be soon, once vaccinations are rolled out and herd immunity is acquired. But until then, we will continue to provide our services online.
Jordan is one of many countries housing refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced persons. Their decision to supply free vaccines to everyone, emphasises Jordan’s commitment to standing in solidarity with all groups. It is only when vaccinations are made accessible to people, regardless of citizenship status, that we may be able to successfully fight coronavirus on a global scale.