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Vaccination against COVID-19 of refugees and asylum seekers  in V4 states

In response to coronavirus pandemic national states initiated national vaccination programmes.  The importance to increase herd immunity brought to light the state of health care of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

National authorities gradually introduced solutions aimed at including non-citizents who reside legally in a country and to ensure vaccination of foreigners free of charge. According to WHO report, access to vaccination for refugees and asylum seekers has been introduced in 101 of the 162 countries that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has been monitoring. Such programmes have been also elaborated by the national governs of the Visegrad group. Nevertheless, within the V4, the accessibility of vaccination varies and vaccination rates among asylum seekers remain low.  

Most unfavourable conditions have been noticed in Hungary. According to the information provided by the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing (NDGAP), asylum applicants are not entitled to vaccination in the country. Vaccination against COVID-19 started in Hungary in December 2020 , but only from June 2021 foreigners holding a residence permit might receive it.  Beneficiaries of international protection have been entitled to vaccination since the beginning, because, according to the law, they enjoy the same rights as Hungarian nationals. In their case, the main challenge has been the fact that the information and the registration website were available in Hungarian only – the introduction of a registration website in English in May 2021 constituted a great improvement. Several beneficiaries of international protection were able to receive  COVID-19 vaccine in homeless shelters (beneficiaries of social care belonged to priority group 2 of the vaccination strategy). The vaccination was also organised in the centres for young adults being former unaccompanied minors accommodated there as well.

Polish National Vaccination Programme was introduced on 15 December 2020 . At the beginning it was organized in accordance with a schedule specified for individual age groups. Since 10 May 2021, everyone can register for the vaccination, including non-Polish citizens, regardless of their legal status. According to information provided by the Ministry of Health, in the case of migrants, a referral for vaccination could be issued on the basis of an ID. Nevertheless, NGOs have raised the alarm that asylum seekers face various obstacles in access to vaccinations such as refusals to issue referrals for vaccination on the basis of a temporary ID cards, disinformation and lack of assistance in a language other than Polish. In reception centres, vaccinations have been coordinated by the private operator Petra Medica. Vaccinations take place at local medical points and clinics outside the facilities. Administration staff and social workers provided information campaigns, leaflets and information letters aimed at disseminating information among residents. Nevertheless, only a small number of asylum applicants have registered for vaccination. As reported by the Department of Social Assistance on 7 June 2021, there were 46 people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. According to information provided by the Border Guard, as of 17 June 2021, none of the residents of detention centres have undergone vaccination. 

In the Slovak Republic the vaccination programme started on 26 December 2020. Nevertheless, according to information obtained from the Migration Office , during the period between March 2020 and May 2021, however, there was no interest expressed by applicants for international protection for vaccination against COVID-19. 

More information is available in the report: The impact of coronavirus country measures on asylum and reception systems in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland