Lebanon is expected to sign a deal this week to secure its share of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan has confirmed.
The funds for the first $4-million payment of the $18-million deal was already secured in a meeting with the central bank and caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
“We removed this obstacle,” Hasan told Reuters Monday, revealing that the first batch of vaccines was expected to reach Lebanon 8 weeks after the contract’s signing.
The official had said that the cost of the contract would be covered using funding from the Health Ministry’s budget, the general budget reserve, donations from some public administrations, in addition to a World Bank loan.
The deal comes amid troubling times for Lebanon, which has been paralyzed by a debilitating economic and financial crisis for months.
To add to its turmoil, the country has been recording high numbers of new coronavirus infection cases daily, which is putting additional pressure on its readily-exhausted health sector.
The Beirut explosion and the recent spike in the emigration of doctors and nurses did their part in straining Lebanon’s hospitals, which are growing short of beds for receiving new cases of the disease.
Minister Hasan assured that Lebanon aims to add 200 new intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the next couple of months, bringing the total up to 700.
He also requested help from U.N. agencies and NGOs to secure additional vaccines for Lebanon, which has a large population of refugees, affirming that “protecting all the communities living in Lebanon … should be part of the same plan.”
A new support for Lebanon’s medical sector emerged recently from a UAE Foundation, The Big Heart, which is allocating over $2M to rebuild and expand one of the main hospitals in Beirut, Saint George Hospital.
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