Lebanon’s private and public sectors cooperate on COVID-19 vaccination campaign

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Lebanon’s private and public healthcare sectors are cooperating to speed up the country’s vaccination campaign. What was a sluggish rollout program accelerated after the government allowed private pharmaceutical companies to import doses at their own expense.

Local media reported that the specialist distributor Fattal will import vaccine for the private sector at a rate of $24 for two doses. The total number of doses ordered is still unclear.

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Fattal is the one of multiple private companies which have received approval from the Ministry of Health to import vaccines. The first pharmaceutical company to secure doses for the private sector was Pharmaline which secured one million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine at a price of $38 for two doses.

The Lebanese government is aiming to reach herd immunity by the end of 2021 in efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic which has further stagnated Lebanon’s crisis-hit economy. The small Mediterranean country has recorded over 516,600 COVID-19 cases and 7057 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Lebanon started its COVID-19 vaccination campaign in February, free of charge for citizens who registered on an online platform. This was introduced after it secured 2.1 million Pfizer doses through a loan approved by the World Bank.

An additional order of 750,000 Pfizer doses was secured earlier this month by the government, but this batch is expected to be sold directly through the government to private sector companies, universities and other educational institutions.

Local media reported that around 320,000 doses will be divided between the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University, the Universite Saint Joseph and the St. George University Hospital. The state's Lebanese University will receive 50,000 doses, while the Beirut Arab University will receive 15,000, Balamand University and the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik 10,000 each.

The Lebanese government also secured 2.73 million AstraZeneca doses through the United Nations COVAX initiative. An additional 1.5 million doses were acquired directly from AstraZeneca itself.

China donated 50,000 shots of its Sinopharm vaccine. Lebanese Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan said that the Sinopharm batches were allocated to the Lebanese army, customs, social security, and other public departments and ministries.

Local media also reported earlier this year that some politicians were able to import an unspecified amount of Sinopharm doses prior to its approval from the Health Ministry.

Concerns are on the rise as social media reports claimed the Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was able to import doses of the in-trial one-shot Russian vaccine Sputnik V while awaiting approval by the ministry.

According to data released by the Health ministry, Lebanon has vaccinated 258,939 individuals, corresponding to 5.4 percent of the population above the age of 18.

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