According to Russia’s Honorary Consul in Tripoli and chair of the Lebanese-Russian business council, Jacques Sarraf, anti-coronavirus vaccination with the Russian Sputnik V will begin in Lebanon on March 30, TASS reported Friday.
With a population of 6.83 million, Lebanon has experienced 452,281 cases of coronavirus and 5,964 deaths. The Ministry of Public Health announced on Thursday the registration of 3,560 new Corona infections, with 61 deaths recorded since Wednesday. The authorities are preparing to impose tight restrictions for Easter and Fitr holidays.
The Lebanese Ministry of Health approved the emergency use of the Russian vaccine on February 5. On February 26, it was announced that 20 private firms had been granted the right to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies manufacturing anti-coronavirus drugs. According to the ministry, 13 of them plan to sign contracts for the supply of the Russian-made Sputnik V, and seven more expect to purchase vaccines from Chinese corporation Sinopharm.
Honorary Consul Sarraf, who owns the Pharmaline pharmaceutical company, which, according to its website, “offers a wide range of branded generics, from regular to super generics, which are manufactured at its expansive factory just north of Beirut,” told TASS that the “first vaccine shots will be administered to employees of the national air carrier, Middle East Airlines. This will happen on March 30, at a medical center of the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport.”
Last year, Al Jazeera reported that hospitals in Lebanon had either turned away undocumented people or are setting prohibitively high costs for tests, “leading them to fear for their health and wellbeing.” An official at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that the hospital’s policy was to turn away those without documents so long as they did not require emergency care.
According to Sarraf, “the vaccination of personnel will be free of charge.” But this generosity will not be extended to the undocumented and the poor. According to LBCI Lebanon, the Sputnik-V vaccines be available in every hospital in Lebanon for the low price of $38 a pop.
Should Lebanese hospitals continue to turn away the poor and undocumented, they would likely meet with universal scorn, just like Israel which only vaccinated 100,000 visiting workers from the Palestinian Authority.
The first batch of the Russian vaccine will be flown to Beirut from the United Arab Emirates the day before the vaccination begins. It will be used to vaccinate employees of private companies.
Registration of companies and organizations willing to vaccinate their staff began on Thursday. According to Sarraf, the vaccination will be carried out under the Lebanese Health Ministry’s control, in clinics and medical centers.