BEIRUT: Lebanon needs to vaccinate 30,000 people per day to reach herd immunity target in one year, Dr. Firass Abiad, the head of the main governmental hospital dealing with the disease and the country’s leading expert on COVID-19 said Tuesday.
In a series of tweets, Abiad noted that only 15 percent of eligible citizens have registered for the vaccine so far, but remained optimistic that more will do so as the inoculation campaign “gains momentum.”
As of Sunday, Lebanon had vaccinated only 50,415 people against COVID-19. The administered jabs, all from Pfizer, were the first of two doses.
Lebanon began Feb. 14 a national inoculation campaign, but the slow deliveries of the vaccine – around 100,000 doses have so far been received – and logistical difficulties mean the target of vaccinating 80 percent of the 6 million population to achieve herd immunity is unlikely to be achieved this year. More doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are set to arrive in mid-March.
Of the logistical difficulties of the distribution of vaccines, Abiad tweeted: “Will people with money or wasta jump the line? Can we quickly roll out the vaccine to maintain a safe opening of the economy and schools? Should we be optimistic?”
The questions raised by Abiad are concerns shared by most residents in Lebanon, as their trust in the national vaccination campaign has already been breached when 16 MPs were inoculated last week in what was deemed a violation of priorities as many people with life-threatening diseases and much older than the vaccinated MPs have not even gotten their appointments.
Abiad concluded by saying that the Lebanese must remain optimistic, as vaccines “save lives.” Yet, safety measures would still need to be taken seriously, but people could be “smiling underneath the mask” sooner than expected.
The Health Ministry’s scientific technical committee, established to authorize the import of vaccines, also gave permission for China’s Sinopharm vaccine, shortly after the Chinese government made a donation of 50,000 doses Monday.
Lebanon has so far secured 6.33 million vaccines, including 2.1 million from Pfizer, of which Lebanon has now received 100,790. A quantity of the UK made Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is expected to arrive next week, MP Assem Araji told The Daily Star.
Aside from the government’s procurement of vaccines, 20 local pharmaceutical companies have been granted permission from the Health Ministry to begin negotiations with vaccine companies including Sinopharm and also with Russia for their vaccine Sputnik V.
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