Jihadists and rebels-dominated northwest Syria should receive their first dose of vaccine against Kovid AstraZeneca by March, the World Health Organization (WHO) assured on Tuesday, an initiative that is an intervention in part of the Kovacs global immunization program. “The Idleb region and its vicinity will receive 336,000 doses of the vaccine,” the WHO office in charge of Syria told AFP, about 4% of the Northwest’s total population. Some “35–40% vaccines will be available during the first quarter and 60–65% in the second quarter,” the organization says. About 120,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine should arrive in the area by March, a spokesperson for the local health department told AFP. “They will cover 60,000 people among medical personnel,” said spokesman Imad Zahran. In war-torn Syria, local authorities in rebel-held regions of the northwest demanded registration of their territories in the Kovacs program, which was set up to distribute anti-Kovid vaccines to countries deprived by the WHO. According to the United Nations, approximately 4 million people live in northwestern Syria. The region has officially registered 21,136 cases of Kovid-19, including 408 deaths. It includes the stronghold of Idleb, which is dominated by the jihadists of al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch Hayat Tahir al-Cham, but also small rebel pockets on the Turkish border, managing pro-Ankara rebels. For its part, the government in Damascus joined the Kovacs program in January, authorizing the use of the vaccine of the Russian aide, Sputnik V, in its territory on Monday. The regime has been accused in the past of preventing the arrival of life – to help opposition strongholds beyond its control. In early February, NGO Human Rights Watch requested for the “proper” delivery of vaccines, recalling that “the Syrian government never hinders access to medical care”. Particularly Kurdish regions in the North-East are at the mercy of the regime, no longer benefiting from the UN-sponsored cross-border aid system that formerly allowed international aid to enter more freely. A local Kurdish official told AFP, “There is a discussion with the WHO on getting the anti-Kovid vaccine.”
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