The Berlin state Office for Refugee Affairs (LAF) hopes to start vaccinating residents in asylum seeker centers against COVID-19 this month. Migrants in communal facilities are considered a "high priority" in Germany's vaccine rollout.
"People who live in accommodation centers obviously have more social contact than a person who lives in their own apartment," the acting president of the LAF, Jana Borkamp, told the German news agency epd. In two thirds of centers, residents share kitchens and hygiene facilities, she explained.
"Even if they wear a mask, they have more social contact, and for that reason they are also exposed to a higher risk of infection," Borkamp said. She added that it was the right move to include those living in asylum seeker accommodation centers in the second phase of vaccinations ("high priority"). "In fact that is not just asylum seekers, it’s also other groups living in communal centers, like people with disabilities or homeless people," she added.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic more than a year ago, around 1,300 people in asylum centers in Berlin tested positive for coronavirus as of the end of March, according to the LAF. Four residents have died as a result of the virus. There are currently 18,500 asylum seekers living in nearly 80 centers in Berlin.
Multilingual video campaign
The Office of Refugee Affairs has released information videos about vaccination in 15 languages. "Offering this information has gone down well," Borkamp said. "The Somali, Farsi, Russian and Arabic versions have received the most views."
Centers in other parts of Germany have also responded positively to the initiative, according to the LAF. In Bavaria and Hesse there has been a lot of interest in the versions of the video in African languages, Borkamp said. "It seems that a lot of people in this group are looking for information from an official source."
Asylum seekers have also had questions about the Astrazeneca vaccine, as the temporary halt to the rollout of the vaccine created uncertainty, according to Borkamp. "Just like among the German population, there are subjective fears that are bolstered by rumors flying around the Internet." There was widespread concern in parts of the Arabic speaking world, for example, that the vaccine could cause infertility, she said.