Large segments of Lebanon's population unlikely to get vaccinated

Lebanon may become the first country to reach herd immunity due to many citizens contracting the coronavirus.

AN ISRAELI military observation tower overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and part of the maritime border with Lebanon, is seen near Rosh Hanikra. (Ammar Awad/Reuters) (photo credit: REUTERS)
AN ISRAELI military observation tower overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and part of the maritime border with Lebanon, is seen near Rosh Hanikra. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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A significant proportion of Lebanon's population may end up without a vaccination against the coronavirus, a local study has determined.
The K2P COVID-19 Series’ “Countdown to a COVID-19 Vaccine: Spotlight on Lebanon" report by a team of American University in Beirut researchers in the Faculty of Health Sciences' Knowledge to Policy Center said that the reason that many in Lebanon will go without a vaccine are: the price of vaccines; knowledge that Lebanon's ministry of public health subsidies is unlikely to extend to the entire population; and uncertainly whether enough vaccines will be imported to cover all citizens.
An average household of five people that does not receive a subsidy would have to pay a total of $200 for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (estimated to cost $20 per dose or $40 for the full two-dose regimen), which the government announced in late November is scheduled to arrive in February.
This, researchers noted, will leave "the majority of the population … left to pay more than twice their minimum monthly wage of 675,000 Lebanese pounds to get the vaccine, provided that sufficient amounts of the vaccine were imported."
On Thursday, as the country entered a strict 11-day lockdown, the American University in Beirut, home to the researchers, was no exception, closing its Beirut campus with, the university said, "the strictest possible lockdown."
In the 24 hours before it closed, the university reported that over 25% of students, staff and faculty who were tested for the virus were positive. 
Lebanon is in dire straits due to the coronavirus, according to economic indicators and pandemic vectors.
In the last 10 days, coronavirus infections have jumped over 20%, to 231,936, with overall coronavirus-related deaths increasing by over 15%, to 1,740.  
This is partially due to the relaxed stance the government took toward the pandemic during the late December – early January holiday period as restaurants, stores, pubs and nightclubs remained open. The surge has led to a near collapse of the health care system, especially the hospital sector, which reportedly is running out of beds and supplies.
The deadly August 4 Beirut port explosion added to the health care sector's distress. The explosion left three hospitals non-functional, left two substantially damaged, and destroyed at least 17 containers holding essential medical supplies and a shipment of personal protective equipment, it was reported at the time.
In addition, it is estimated that hundreds of doctors and nurses have left the country, adding strain to an already overburdened health system.
"COVID-19 has put Lebanon completely out of it. With close to 5,000 new cases daily and a 15%-20% positive infection rate – and we have no idea how many people are undetected – the country is a mess," said Heiko Wimmen, project director Iraq, Syria, Lebanon at the International Crisis Group, an organization devoted to preventing deadly conflict.
Lebanon could become the first country in the world to achieve herd immunity due to so many people in the country becoming infected with the coronavirus, Wimmen told The Media Line. He believes that in six months more than 30% of the country will have been infected with the virus and those that survive will have immunity.
"It is highly improbable that vaccines will make any difference. There is very little electricity for refrigeration. Even government-run hospitals are renting others' generators for what little power they can provide," Wimmen said.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccines require storage at cold temperatures.
Wimmen said he does not believe that Lebanon’s current lockdown will reverse the situation. The longer it goes on, the poorer the country will be, pushing many people from their current 'regular' poverty into extreme poverty.
Economically, the World Bank described Lebanon as being in "a deliberate depression with unprecedented consequences for its human capital, stability, and prosperity," with "systematic failures across banking, debt and exchange rates," which are crucial macro-economic metrics of economic health.
The economy's contraction in 2020 is projected to be 19.2%, the World Bank said in its late-2020 economic overview. This follows on the heels of a 6.7% contraction in real GDP growth in 2019. On top of that, the Bank projects 2021 to be a very difficult year for the former Riviera of the Eastern Mediterranean with another sharp deceleration of 13.2%. 
Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 12:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.
Country
Confirmed cases
Deaths
Recovered
Active Cases
Afghanistan
53,831
2,324
45,298
6,209
Algeria
102,860
2,819
69,791
30,250
Bahrain
96,470
356
93,160
2,954
Cyprus
28,124
163
2,057
25,904
Djibouti
5,891
61
5,808
22
Egypt
152,719
8,362
120,312
24,045
Iran
1,311,810
56,538
1,101,599
153,673
Iraq
605,416
12,915
562,575
29,926
Israel
523,885
3,846
440,794
79,245
Jordan
310,968
4,091
293,531
13,346
Kuwait
155,874
946
149,809
5,119
Lebanon
231,916
1,740
145,873
84,323
Libya
107,434
1,645
84,245
21,544
Mauritania
15,794
395
14,008
1,391
Morocco
455 055
7,810
429,278
17,967
Oman
130,070
1,509
123,593
6,162
Pakistan
511,921
10,818
467,234
33,869
Palestinian Territories
150,505
1665
136,247
12,593
Qatar
146,480
246
143,094
3,140
Saudi Arabia
364,271
6,304
356,013
1,954
Somalia
4,744
130
3,666
948
Sudan
25,730
1,576
15,240
8,914
Syria
12,660
799
6,259
5,602
Tunisia
168,568
5,415
122,775
40,378
Turkey
2,355,839
23,325
2,227,927
104,587
United Arab Emirates
242,969
726
215,820
26,423
Yemen
2,109
612
1,419
78
Total
7,818,858
157,136
7,377,425
740,566