Lebanon on Wednesday launched its Covid-19 vaccination plan, announcing that it is seeking to inoculate 80% of its residents in 2021.
Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan said the plan clarifies the vaccination mechanism, ensures the monitoring of the refrigeration chain, guarantees a transparent and fair access to the vaccine and confronts the possible side effects.
Reassuring that “the vaccine that will be endorsed in Lebanon is the most effective, secure and safe according to international scientific standards,” Hassan said the National Committee for the Covid-19 Vaccination has been set up to achieve the aspired goals.
“The goal of the plan is to achieve high levels of vaccination in society, which would reach 80% in 2021,” the minister said.
He also noted that vaccine will not be obligatory and will be “free of charge even at private centers.”
“All residents on Lebanese territory — be them citizens, displaced Syrians, Palestinian refugees and people of other nationalities” will have equal access to the vaccine, Hassan added.
“In addition to the accredited vaccines, as a Health Ministry we have allowed the registration of vaccines” from all countries and “a scientific, technical committee will be formed within the next 48 hours to devise a mechanism and specific standards that guarantee quality, efficacy and safety,” the minister explained.
He also said that Lebanon has taken a decision to “accept any vaccine donation” but “according to the platform and the national plan.”
The Pfizer vaccine is expected to arrive in Lebanon in mid-February.
Speaking at the same press conference, Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Bizri, the head of the National Committee for the Covid-19 Vaccine, said the priority will be for “protecting the health sector, the elderly and people who have chronic illnesses.”
“We encourage sectoral registration on the platform and individuals will also have the right to register,” he explained.
He added that registration will be according to scientific standards and that beneficiaries will get cards containing information about the first and second doses and contact details to report any side effects.
He also said that the Pfizer vaccine will be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius at special refrigerators at the state-run Rafik Hariri University Hospital.
“Our objective is to vaccinate 5.5 million people and reach immunity that protects the entire society,” Bizri added.
The head of the parliamentary health committee, MP Assem Araji, for his part noted that “receiving the vaccine does not mean ending the precautionary measures of wearing masks and social distancing.”
“It is necessary to wait until an 80% immunity is reached in society,” he added.