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Lebanon and the vaccination against the coronavirus in the face of suffocating economic and political challenges

February 20, 2021, the first batch of COVED-19 vaccines arrived in Lebanon and is funded by the Health System Enhancement Project in Lebanon as part of the World Bank’s first support for mers-CoV vaccination in the world. Lebanon officially launched the national vaccination campaign at Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut on February 14. The first recipient of the vaccine was Dr. Mahmoud Hassoun, head of the hospital’s intensive care unit, followed by 93-year-old Lebanese actor Salah Tizani.

Both represent the priority groups targeted by the campaign in the early stages of vaccination: front-line health workers, the elderly and those with more than one chronic disease.  “I tell everyone to come and receive and not be afraid,” Tizani told AFP. It is better to get vaccinated than to be the victim of this deadly virus.”

Despite the challenges that are expected to be faced in the implementation phase, the campaign against MERS-CoV in Lebanon will save lives and support the economic recovery that Lebanon desperately needs.

Lebanon is facing three severe crises: an ongoing economic crisis since October 2019, the Coronavirus (COVED-19) pandemic, and the aftermath of the beirut port explosion. The explosion damaged 292 health facilities and significantly reduced access to health-care services, particularly among vulnerable groups. The Corona pandemic has exacerbated the pressures on the health sector.

In March 2020, at the start of the Corona pandemic, the World Bank agreed to reallocate $40 million for pandemic response as part of the $120 million project to strengthen Lebanon’s health system, which it approved in 2017 to support the government’s efforts to increase access to quality health care services for low-income Lebanese and displaced Syrians.

Lebanon became the first country to receive world bank funding to combat the coronavirus. This reallocation has helped to purchase medical equipment and supplies to increase Lebanon’s pandemic response capacity and to cover the cost of treating people living with HIV in hospitals. To date, the project has provided medical equipment and supplies to 45 public and private hospitals and has paid hospital bills for 768 patients.

However, the unprecedented rise in the number of people infected with MERS-CoV, coupled with the high number of infections among health personnel in Lebanon, has overwhelmed the capacities of the health sector. In addition to various public health measures, the rapid launch of the coronavirus vaccination campaign is of great importance in order to protect the health system, reduce the spread of infection and put the country on the path of confident economic re-movement.

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Mohamed Mobarak

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