Egypt and Lebanon are two of the latest countries from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to launch electronic registration systems for those interested in taking a COVID-19 vaccine.
The launch of Egypt’s portal was confirmed by the country’s Minister of Health and Population, Hala Zayed, as a means to “neutralise the human element in the process, and to ensure the system’s governance in order to increase confidence between the state and the citizen.”
Zayed added that, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations, vaccinations will be prioritised first for medical workers, senior citizens, and those with underlying health conditions. At the time of publishing, registration hadn’t yet gone live; instead, the online portal leads to a landing page with the announcement that “registration is coming soon”.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s portal launched yesterday, with registration not only open to Lebanese citizens, but also to Palestinian and Syrian refugees. At the time of launch, the website is said to have received approximately 2,000 visitors every five minutes.
As with most vaccination drives around the world, medical workers and senior citizens in Lebanon will also be prioritised.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
According to Egypt’s Zayed, the country is expected to receive 20 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, in addition to 40 million doses of the Sinopharm version. A further 20% of the population will be provided vaccines via the GAVI Vaccine Alliance.
Africa’s third most populous country’s vaccination drive is expected to begin in February 2021.
Lebanon is also set to begin its drive next month, with the country reportedly expecting its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines by mid-February, said caretaker health minister, Hamad Hassan. According to reports, the country is focusing on acquiring and administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Whilst the use of technology is welcome in the region, there remains concern over accessibility. For example, Human Rights Watch has warned that gaps remain in Lebanon’s vaccine programme planning, with local researcher Aya Majzoub stating:
“The government’s stated commitment to an inclusive vaccination strategy is positive, but the real test will be translating the plan into action.
“It is critical for leaders to clearly communicate the government’s vaccination strategy, ensure that vaccine access is not determined by political connections or socio-economic status, and apply transparent, evidence-based distribution criteria equally to everyone in Lebanon.”
ON THE RECORD
Lebanon’s Hassan, who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month, said in a conference that he hoped citizens would “respond to the national plan to inoculate over 80% of the population and achieve herd immunity to protect society from the virus.”
He added: “The official vaccination platform protects the privacy of beneficiaries, as well as the database, and was tested under the supervision of an IT team from the World Bank to ensure it cannot be hacked.
“The vaccination plan requires the commitment of all institutions and administration to the principle of equality and justice above any other consideration, whether political, regional or sectarian.”