BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s health authorities Saturday launched a COVID-19 vaccination “marathon” to speed up inoculations around the country, including areas where turnout has so far been low.
The daylong campaign offered AstraZeneca vaccines at 30 different centers around the country without prior appointment to encourage people over age 30 to show up. The capital Beirut was not included in the campaign.
A vaccination program that started in February targeted older age groups, primarily through registration on a government-operated platform and appointments.
By the end of the day Saturday, more than 10,000 people had been vaccinated in the push.
Pictures of lines outside centers north of Beirut showed turnout was high, particularly among foreign workers, many of whom had been reluctant or unable to register on the government-operated digital platform. There were also lines in towns and villages in the east and mountains, where turnout has so far been fickle.
Lebanon has managed to curb the number of new virus cases since the start of the year. The small country, reeling from a crippling economic crisis that predated the pandemic, is eager to restore economic activities. Officials want to open up businesses and tourist attractions ahead of the summer season to draw in much needed foreign currency.
So far, over 700,000 people have been vaccinated in the country of 6 million. More than 530,000 have been infected, with over 7,700 deaths since February 2020.
Restrictions in place since the start of 2021 have eased over the last few weeks, allowing restaurants, bars and malls to reopen and receive customers until late.
“We are living many crises and our way to revive our economic life and restore some Lebanese social and culture norms forces us to think of greater ways for immunization in shorter periods,” Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hassan told a local TV station.