Sat | Nov 27, 2021

Syria receives batch of UN vaccines to speed up virus fight

Published:Friday | April 23, 2021 | 12:18 AM
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syria’s Health Minister Hassan Ghabbash, during a press conference where he announced receiving the first batch of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, in Damascus, Syria yesterday.
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syria’s Health Minister Hassan Ghabbash, during a press conference where he announced receiving the first batch of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, in Damascus, Syria yesterday.

DAMASCUS (AP)

The Syrian government received a batch of 203,000 COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday, the health minister said, part of a push to speed up a sluggish inoculation process in the war-torn country.

The arrival of the United Nations-secured jabs came as a new wave of infections overwhelms medical centres around Syria. The AstraZeneca vaccines are part of a campaign aiming to vaccinate 20 per cent of the country’s population before the end of the year.

Syria’s government controls two-thirds of the country, with the rest held by rebels and Kurdish factions. Millions have fled the country or been displaced, and the war has killed some half a million people from the pre-war population of 23 million.

Health Minister Hassan Ghabbash made the announcement during a news conference held in the capital, Damascus. He said that the vaccine would be given first to front-line workers, the elderly, and those with chronic diseases.

CAMPAIGN

The arrival of the United Nations-secured jabs came as a new wave of infections overwhelms medical centres around Syria. The AstraZeneca vaccines are part of a campaign aiming to vaccinate 20 per cent of the country’s population before the end of the year.

Akjemal Magtymova, the representative of the World Health Organization in Syria, said that the government drafted a plan with the World Health Organization and UN children’s agency UNICEF to distribute the vaccine equally across the country.

Thursday’s announcement came a day after Syria’s last rebel-held enclave received its first batch of 53,800 COVID-19 vaccines from neighbouring Turkey.

The 203,000 jabs that arrived in Damascus on Thursday will cover government-held areas and those under the control of Kurdish fighters in the northeast. Hundreds of thousands more are scheduled to arrive in the coming months.