MSF nurse gives COVID-19 vaccination at an Elderly Nursing Home In Chlifa Baalbak. Vaccines are supplied by MoPH. © Tariq Keblaoui

Lebanon: MSF participating in COVID-19 vaccination efforts for the most vulnerable populations across the country

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) started vaccinating elderly people and medical personnel in nursing homes against COVID-19 on March 19, 2021 following an agreement with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

To date, 1,050 people were vaccinated by the mobile teams sent out by MSF across the country, starting in Baalbeck (Chlifa, El Sharawneh), Bekaa valley (Hermel), South Lebanon (Abbasiyeh), Mount Lebanon (Zouk and Hammana).

“MSF is supporting the Lebanese efforts in the roll out of COVID-19 vaccination to ensure access for the most vulnerable and at-risk populations without discrimination”, says Julien Raickman, MSF Head of Mission in Lebanon. “Elderly people and healthcare workers are among the most at risk and were therefore identified as one of the priority population groups to be vaccinated. We welcome the efforts of the Lebanese authorities to guarantee access to vaccination for all people in Lebanon without any discrimination.”

MSF mobile vaccination teams

Since the elderly are not able to access the vaccination centres easily, MSF has set up mobile vaccination teams to reach them where they are. MSF’s mobile teams are an addition to the deployment efforts already put in place in the country to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The nursing homes and access criteria are defined by the Ministry of Public Health in accordance with WHO recommendations.

MSF nurse gives COVID-19 vaccine to frontline health worker at an Elderly Nursing Home In Chlifa Baalbak. Vaccines are supplied by MoPH.Tariq Keblaoui

“On Wednesday, we went to the Hôpital Psychiatrique de La Croix in Mount Lebanon area, one of the biggest elderly homes in Lebanon where elderly persons with mental health illnesses are accommodated and cared for”, says Tania Hachem, MSF medical coordinator. We had three teams on the ground to carefully explain the reasons for vaccination and the process. The interaction with patients and staff was very powerful.  In the space of one day, we vaccinated nearly 400 people.”

To be eligible for vaccination by MSF, beneficiaries need to be pre-registered on the online platform created by the health authorities. Before vaccinating patients, MSF mobile teams are confirming their pre-registration status as well as their consent. The vaccines are supplied by the health authorities.

Access to vaccines is an essential part of the response to the pandemic which has further exacerbated the country’s already struggling health care system and pushed many people to the brink at a period of major economic crisis.

Besides supporting the vaccination efforts, to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, MSF has temporarily turned its hospital in Bar Elias into a COVID-19 facility with a 20-bed capacity. Currently, all beds in the intensive care unit (ICU) are occupied and the in-patient department reached its limit capacity. In Zahle’s Elias Haraoui public hospital, MSF is supporting the COVID-19 ICU ward, and has adapted and further expanded its emergency room activities to ensure effective triage of COVID-19 patients. MSF teams also carried out COVID-19 testing and health promotion activities in several locations across Lebanon.