“Upon the request of the Lebanese side, the Chinese government decided to donate 50,000 doses of the inactivated Sinopharm vaccine to Lebanon to help it fight the Corona epidemic,” Wang Kejian wrote on Twitter.
The news comes as Lebanon enters its third week of the nationwide vaccination campaign as 28 centers across the country have administered 50,000 shots of the US-developed Pfizer-BioNTech jab to health care workers and those aged over 75.
China’s donation will offer some light relief to the Health Ministry, after accusations and concern from health experts over the slow pace of the vaccination rollout and hospitals warning of a shortage of vaccine supplies.
In addition, the vaccine campaign was mired in scandal last week after the revelation that elderly politicians had received the vaccine before some health workers, causing outrage among the public and resulting in the World Bank threatening to pull funding for the campaign.
The vaccine, which was developed by the China’s state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, has already been rolled out in other Middle Eastern nations such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. In the final stage clinical trials held in Dubai in December, the vaccine proved to have an 86 percent efficacy level against coronavirus infection and 100 percent effectiveness at preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease.
China’s ambassador to Lebanon did not reveal when the country can expect to receive the donation.
Lebanon has so far secured 6.33 million vaccines, including 2.1 million from Pfizer, of which Lebanon has now received 100,790. A quantity of the UK made Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is expected to arrive next week, MP Assem Araji told The Daily Star.
Aside from the government’s procurement of vaccines, 20 local pharmaceutical companies have been granted permission from the Health Ministry to begin negotiations with vaccine companies including Sinopharm and also with Russia for their vaccine Sputnik V.
Despite the news of China’s donation, the Health Ministry's scientific technical committee established to authorize the import of vaccines to Lebanon has not yet given permission for Sinopharm to be used in Lebanon.
Dr. Mohammed Haidar, adviser to the caretaker health minister, told The Daily Star that meetings have been held to analyze published data on the vaccine’s development to ensure its safety and effectiveness.
“Until now we have held two meetings to study the file of Sinopharm, but the file is not complete ... we are still waiting for some papers. They [the Chinese] promised us we will have it soon,” he said.
Haidar also added that there is an ongoing discussion between the Lebanese Army and the Chinese military to acquire a quantity of the vaccine for the Army.
“I think it would be free of charge; a donation to the Army from the Defense Ministry in China,” Haidar said.
Last month, the committee gave the green light for emergency use in Lebanon of Sputnik V and 10 pharmaceutical companies in Lebanon are soon expected to make deals with the company.
Rumors circulating on social media over the last few days that local group Biotek Pharm would be offering two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine for $65 are false, Haidar confirmed.
Source: The Daily Star