After receiving its first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday February 13 with the help of the World Bank, Lebanon began its vaccination campaign on Sunday.

Some 28,500 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have arrived at Beirut airport, the first batch of a total of 2.1 million doses expected in stages throughout the year.

Health services hope that the start of vaccination will ease the pressure on hospitals across the country.

For more than a year, they have since been facing a serious financial crisis, to which was added the explosions in the port of Beirut in August 2020, which left more than 200 dead and thousands injured.

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To finance the purchase of the doses, the World Bank reallocated $ 34 million initially planned for another health project in Lebanon.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the World Bank (WB) have announced that they will “independently” oversee the storage and distribution of the first vaccines covered by WB funding.

"We will monitor a fair and transparent distribution for priority groups," warned its regional vice-president, Ferid Belhadj, on Twitter.

He said that the elderly and caregivers would be the first to be vaccinated, and warned against any privilege.

1st batch of # COVID19 vaccine will arrive in #Lebanon tomorrow.

We will MONITOR fair and transparent distribution to PRIORITY groups as agreed with Gov: health workers, people aged 65+, epidemiological and surveillance staff, and people aged 55-64 years with co-morbidities.

- Ferid Belhaj (@FeridBelhaj) February 12, 2021

A doctor, the first Lebanese vaccinated

On Sunday, in Beirut, Mahmoud Hassoun, head of the intensive care unit at Rafic Hariri hospital, became the first Lebanese to receive the anti-Covid vaccine, kicking off the vaccination campaign. 

Lebanon has also ordered 2.7 million doses through the Covax system for poor countries and negotiations are underway to purchase 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, government officials say.

The number ordered so far should make it possible to vaccinate about half of the Lebanese population, which has more than 6 million inhabitants, including at least 1 million Syrian refugees.

Nearly a month after imposing strict containment to stem the coronavirus epidemic, which sparked protests, the Lebanese government this week began lifting some restrictions.

Most businesses, however, remain closed and the 24-hour curfew has been maintained.

The epidemic killed nearly 4,000 people in the country, which saw a spike in contaminations in January.

With AFP and Reuters

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