BEIRUT: Lebanese politicians have been accused of skipping the queue for the coronavirus vaccine, with the World Bank joining a condemnation chorus on Tuesday and threatening to suspend its multi-million dollar support for the country’s vaccination campaign. country.
Controversy erupted after some MPs secretly received the blow from COVID-19 in the parliament building – although they were not among the priority groups.
Claims of favoritism have increased after it was revealed that President Michel Aoun and his wife were vaccinated last Friday by a medical team sent to Baabda Palace.
These allegations have added to the widespread frustration of the Lebanese at the delays and failures of the vaccination campaign.
World Bank Regional Director Saroj Kumar Jha tweeted that if the allegations turned out to be true, “it would be a violation of the national plan.”
He warned the bank could halt funding for vaccines and support for the country’s response to the coronavirus.
“I call on everyone, I mean everyone, whatever your position, to register and wait your turn,” Jha added.
The reallocation of $ 34 million by the World Bank allowed Lebanon to receive its first two batches of approximately 60,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech this month. The bank had said it would monitor the vaccine rollout and warned of favoritism.
A number of MPs are believed to have received the vaccine inside the parliament building in violation of an established plan that requires individuals to register through a dedicated platform and then wait for an appointment. to the hospital.
The first stage of the vaccination rollout, which entered its 10th day on Tuesday, includes doctors, nurses and paramedics treating patients infected with the virus, as well as those over 75 years of age.
The breach of MPs sparked a furious public reaction on social media under the hashtag #NoWasta (no favoritism).
Dr Abdul Rahman Bizri, head of the National Committee for the Administration of the Coronavirus Vaccine, threatened to resign to protest the violation, but later said he would wait for an official explanation by Wednesday.
Less than two hours later, information leaked to local media that Aoun, along with his wife and 16 people from his presidential team, received the vaccine last Friday.
Jha tweeted: “This is not in line with the national plan agreed with (the) World Bank, and we would record it (as a) violation of the terms and conditions agreed with us for a fair and equitable vaccination. Everyone must register and wait their turn. “
A leaked list of MPs who secretly received the vaccine showed that many were not in priority groups.
Among politicians who sought to justify receiving the coup, Anis Nassar said he registered through the platform and received a phone call from Parliament.
“I was not aware of any violation, and if a violation has occurred, I apologize profusely. Despite this, I am not responsible for what happened.
Parliament secretary general Adnan Daher said vaccinations were overseen by a team from the Ministry of Health and the Lebanese Red Cross.
He said the aim was “to help hospitals avoid overcrowding”.
However, the Red Cross said it had no supervisory or operational role in the vaccination campaign.
“Our teams are present in all vaccination centers exclusively to assist or help citizens aged 75 and over in the event of an emergency,” he explains.
Bizri later said at a press conference: “What happened is a terrible thing and needs to be explained. The World Bank said there would be consequences. The Department of Health made this mistake and must explain it.
He added: “It’s discrimination.”
The head of the Doctors’ Union, Sharaf Abu Sharaf, said that the roll-out of the vaccination “has been slow, chaotic and far from transparent”.
He warned that without an improvement in deployment, Lebanon “faces a great catastrophe”.
“We need to speed up the vaccination plan to achieve collective immunity,” Abu Sharaf said.