Protecting refugees from COVID-19 a 'global responsibility', says Jordan's king

by Lin Taylor | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 28 January 2021 16:34 GMT

Refugee students learn how to sanitise their hands on the first day of the new school year at one of the UNRWA schools, amid fears of rising numbers of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Amman, Jordan September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

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Jordan, home to some 750,000 refugees, has opened its vaccination programme to anyone living within its borders

Jan 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world has a "global responsibility" to safeguard the health of refugees from COVID-19, Jordan's King Abdullah told a virtual meeting of leaders on Thursday after his country became one of the first to vaccinate refugees.

Ensuring refugees and migrants get vaccinated is key to ending the pandemic through herd immunity, which requires a large portion of a community developing immunity to a virus either through natural infection or vaccination, experts say.

"It is a moral duty to treat the vaccine as a global public good that ensures that low-income and poor countries are not left at the end of the waiting line," the monarch said during an online address organised by the World Economic Forum.

"Amidst these challenging times, safeguarding the health and wellbeing of refugees remain a global responsibility," he said.

Jordan has the most refugees per capita after Lebanon, hosting about 750,000 refugees, including many from Syria, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.

It was one of the first countries in the world to immunise refugees as part of a national vaccination programme open to anyone living within its borders, regardless of their immigration status, the UNHCR said.

Aid groups worry that refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrant workers across the world, including in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, are hard to reach and risk being left behind by vaccination campaigns.

The COVAX vaccine sharing platform designed to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 shots has said it aims to deliver 1.8 billion doses to poorer nations in 2021.

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(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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