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Turkey to begin mass COVID-19 vaccination on Thursday with Sinovac shot



Turkey will start countrywide COVID-19 vaccinations on Thursday beginning with health workers, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday shortly after Sinovac’s vaccine was granted emergency authorisation, Reuters reports.

Turkey has been hit hard by the pandemic, with around 23,000 people dying from the virus and more than 2 million infected. Night-time curfews are in force throughout the week, with a full two-day lockdown at weekends.

“For us to return to our old lives, we absolutely need to get the vaccine,” Koca said after being vaccinated live on television, followed by members of Turkey’s advisory science council. “I believe the days ahead of us will be bright.”

The vaccines have been distributed to public health storage facilities in all Turkey’s 81 provinces, he told reporters.

Ankara plans first doses for health workers and those older than 65, followed by those older than 50 and suffering a chronic illness, in addition to those in specific sectors or high-risk environments.

The third group will include young adults and some other categories, with a fourth group covering the rest.

Turkey: 3 brothers die of COVID-19 in a month

Turkey has received 3 million doses of Sinovac’s Coronavac and has ordered a total of 50 million. It is also in talks for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, and the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

While Indonesia began administering the Chinese vaccine on Wednesday, various trials from around the world have shown wide ranging results including researchers in Brazil releasing late-stage clinical data showing an efficacy rate of only 50.4%.

Last month, Turkish researchers said CoronaVac showed a 91.25% efficacy based on an interim analysis of 29 cases. A fuller analysis can take place when they reach 40 cases.

Turkey’s trials will continue as it moves ahead with the mass inoculation, the trials coordinator told Reuters.

Daily coronavirus infections have dropped to around 10,000 and deaths to around 170 in recent days.

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Covid vaccine access will draw migrant to the EU, official says



The number of refugees heading to Europe will increase this year due to the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, the Director-General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), Michael Spindelegger, said on Monday.

Handelsblatt newspaper quoted Spindelegger as saying that the availability of vaccines and health care in Europe and the global economic crisis caused by the pandemic is expected to increase immigration levels.

READ: ‘Pandemic raised economic burden on migrants, refugees’

“People receive the vaccine for free in the European Union, and this is something that significantly attracts refugees from Africa, Latin America, and Asia, therefore we expect an increase in illegal immigration,” he said.

The centre’s experts indicated that they noticed new migration routes to Europe, for example through Lebanon to Cyprus or from Mauritania to the Canary Islands.

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Lebanon: 30 wounded in lockdown clashes with security police



At least 30 anti-lockdown protesters were wounded in clashes with Lebanese security police on Monday, the National News Agency (NNA) has reported. Protesters in the north Lebanon city of Tripoli were also demonstrating against the fines imposed on those who breach the lockdown restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the NNA, the protesters threw rocks at the main government building in the city before police officers started to fire tear gas. It was not immediately clear whether the protest was spontaneous or organised, but it is not the first such demonstration in Tripoli against the coronavirus measures.

The city is Lebanon’s poorest, with many residents living below the poverty line. Restrictions on daily life have not been respected as local people seek to make a living.

The Lebanese government extended a total lockdown by two weeks in an attempt to curb the increase in Covid-19 infections and protect the collapsing health sector. The country of six million people has seen over 280,000 cases and 2,404 deaths from the disease since the outbreak of the pandemic. It is expecting the delivery of its first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine consignment next month.

READ: Lebanese hoarding food as 11-day, 24-hour lockdown announced

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Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to receive free covid vaccine



The General Director of Association 302 to Defend Refugees Rights, Ali Huweidi, welcomed the Lebanese government’s decision to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon free of charge and described it as “a step in the right direction”.

In an interview with Quds Press, Huweidi said this was the result of a meeting between Lebanese Minister of Health Hamad Hassan, a UNRWA delegation, and a representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The vaccination process will take into account the criteria set by the WHO, starting with the health field workers followed by the elderly,” he said.

The Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone, said in an earlier statement that the Palestinian refugees will be included in the Lebanese coronavirus national vaccination drive, free of charge, similar to the Lebanese people and those residing in the country in accordance with WHO standards.

Cordone added that the UN agency would cooperate with the Lebanese state to establish vaccination centres close to Palestinian camps and residential communities in Lebanon.

READ: UNRWA absent from suffering of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

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