'A great day of hope': War-torn Syria receives first Covid vaccines

22 April 2021, 20:40

The war-torn country has received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab
The war-torn country has received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Syria has received its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines as the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab arrived in the war-torn nation in a "great day of hope".

The Middle Eastern state, which has been embroiled in a decade-long civil war, received 203,000 doses of the jab produced by the Serum Institute of India as health experts try to vaccinate nearly a quarter of the population by the year's end.

The batch arrived in the capital Damascus today as part of the COVAX initiative, through which the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF support the rollout of doses. The initiative helps 92 countries get access to vaccines.

Dr Akjemal Magtymova, Head of Mission and WHO Representative in Syria, said: "This is an important milestone in our collective fight against the pandemic.

"Delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines by COVAX and partners brings us closer to vaccine equity and gives hope for the people in Syria, whose lives have been shattered by a decade of conflict and the devastating impact of the pandemic.

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Syria was devastated by civil war
Syria was devastated by civil war. Picture: PA
The vaccines' arrival mark a key moment in Syria's outbreak
The vaccines' arrival mark a key moment in Syria's outbreak. Picture: PA

"With the vaccines delivered through this first batch and with future deliveries planned for this year we hope that by end of 2021, health workers, the elderly and people with chronic diseases – that is 20% of the population - will be protected from COVID-19 and its complications."

Bo Viktor Nylund, UNICEF’s Representative in Syria, added: "This is a great day of hope. The imminent roll-out of the vaccines will bring protection to health workers, who continue their lifesaving work amid the pandemic."

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A further batch of 53,800 vaccines for high-risk populations in North-West Syria will also be distributed.

COVAX is led by a number of organisations, including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and institutions like UNICEF.

It is on track to supply at least 2 billion vaccine doses to countries around the world in 2021, with 1.3 billion donor-funded doses going to the 92 lower income countries in the initiative.