Lebanon’s coronavirus vaccine drive will include 33 or 34 vaccination centers across the country. According to the head of the government’s emergency health committee, these centers are being prepared under strict criteria and will be ready by mid-February.
Dr. Abdul-Rahman Bizri, an Infectious disease specialist at the AUBMC, said that the first shipment of vaccines is expected to arrive in February, regardless of the Health Ministry’s setbacks on passing a law through Parliament to allow the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in Lebanon.
Led by the member of parliament Assem Araji, the parliamentary health committee met on Wednesday to finalize the regulation. Araji said it will be passed on to Speaker Nabih Berri, who called for a general parliamentary session to be held on Friday to approve the bill.
The draft law aims to secure a two-year warrant in Lebanon for the emergency use of all coronavirus vaccines, not just the Pfizer jab.
Araji told Al-Jadeed news that Lebanon will eventually need 12 million doses of the vaccine to cover the whole country.
He also mentioned that children less than 16 years old and pregnant women will not qualify to take the jab as there is no data at present that details the correct dosage to support these categories.
According to the Health Ministry, the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in Lebanon on February 12th, with further shipments in the following weeks to eventually bring the 2.1 million jabs secured from Pfizer.
COVAX, the global vaccination program led by the WHO, which aims to vaccinate people in middle and poor income countries, also has an agreement with Lebanon for enough jabs to cover 20 percent of the population.
The bill will also ensure that responsibility for COVID-19 vaccines and any possible side-effects is fully given to the Lebanese government.
Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan has made it clear that the vaccine will be free of charge to all citizens.
However, there has been speculation over whether the private sector will be able to offer vaccines against COVID-19.
Dr. Abdul-Rahman Bizri noted that the government will most likely encourage uptake through the private sector as it will help achieve high immunity levels across the population.
“I don’t think anybody will mind the private sector getting hold of vaccines, in fact the government will encourage it, but once the vaccine is here, we must have a unified vaccine database to monitor immunity levels,” Bizri said.
Lebanon is currently trying to halt the spread of the coronavirus by enforcing a complete lockdown, which will start on Thursday, forbidding people from leaving the house and shutting down all businesses for 11 days straight.
When asked whether the worst of the virus is yet to come, Bizri said: “Nobody knows. You can never make estimations in Lebanon, not just for the virus but for anything.”
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