Lebanon has given its first vaccinations for COVID-19, with an intensive care doctor and a well-known 93-year-old comedian being the first to receive Pfizer BioNTech doses
February 14, 2021, 11:03 a.m.
4 min read
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BEIRUT – Lebanon gave its first vaccinations for COVID-19 on Sunday. A doctor in intensive care and a well-known 93-year-old comedian were the first to receive Pfizer BioNTech doses.
Lebanon started its vaccination campaign the day after receiving the first batch of vaccine – 28,500 doses from Brussels, near Pfizer’s manufacturing facility. More should arrive in the coming weeks.
The rollout is monitored by the World Bank and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in order to ensure safe handling and fair and equitable access for all Lebanese.
The political, economic and health crises in Lebanon have leveled out, deepening the country’s problems and public anger and distrust of the longstanding ruling class. The government did not offer social safety nets or structural reforms to get international aid.
Lebanon has had a caretaker government since last summer after Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned. He gave up after a massive explosion in the capital’s port in August that killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. He tested the troubled health sector and plunged the country deeper into crisis.
Since the explosion, rival factions have been unable to agree on a new government and reforms called for by the international community to offer aid. Pandemic restrictions have only made the economic crisis worse.
International organizations and allied countries have only provided humanitarian aid to deal with the port explosion and the worsening pandemic.
Lebanon is in the midst of an increase in coronavirus cases. Since the first confirmed case last February, around 337,000 cases have been recorded, with 3,961 deaths.
The country with over 6 million inhabitants, including more than 1 million refugees, was initially able to contain the virus. But there has been a spike since the August explosion that only worsened during the holiday season. At this point, in an effort to stimulate the economy, the government was easing restrictions for months when nearly 80,000 expats came to Lebanon.
After record deaths and infections, Lebanon imposed its strictest lockdown to date with 24-hour curfews and basic services only in early January. The lock is now slowly easing.
According to a skeptical public, only 450,000 people have registered for a vaccination, according to Health Minister Hamad Hassan.
The head of the intensive care unit at the country’s leading hospital for fighting the virus, Dr. Mahmoud Hassoun, was the first to receive the vaccine. After being vaccinated, Hassoun urged Lebanese people to sign up to receive the vaccine to ensure community immunity.
“Please take the vaccine, whichever one, as soon as possible,” he appealed to the public on LBC TV.
Salah Tizani, a famous actor in Lebanon known by the name Abu Salim, was the first in public to be vaccinated aged 75 and over.
Diab paid tribute to the country’s overworked and overwhelmed front-line workers.
“They are the unknown soldiers who have been carrying a great burden and increased responsibility for a year,” he told the medical team at Rafik Hariri University Hospital.
Around 55,000 high risk health workers are expected to receive the early doses.
Doctors and nurses lined up outside the American University of Beirut hospital to receive the vaccine. The private hospital wanted to vaccinate 180 people on Sunday.
Dr. Rasha Sawaya, a pediatric ambulance, was one of the first to get the sting.
“I feel privileged and excited that this is happening to Lebanon. For once, it works, “she said.
Associate press writer Fay Abuelgasim contributed to this report.