Only around one percent of the Middle East region’s population had received a first coronavirus vaccine shot, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.
The UN body released its data for nearly 600 million people, stretching from Morocco to Pakistan — but excluding Israel.
“So far, more than 6.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been given to people in 12 countries,” Ahmed al-Mandhari, the Cairo-based WHO’s regional chief.
WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) comprises 21 member states and is home to some 583 million people.
The remaining countries in WHO’s region are due to receive “an estimated 46 million to 56 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, during the first half of this year,” Mandhari said.
There have been more than six million confirmed cases of the virus across the EMRO region, including 140,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, Mandhari said.
Thirteen countries are affected by variants of the coronavirus, he added.
Mandhari also warned of the “unequal distribution of the vaccine roll-out” globally, and said it was “difficult to predict” how many vaccines were available.
“A number of countries in the region have entered into bilateral agreements with manufacturers,” he said, but predicting that “the pace of these agreements will accelerate”.
Lebanon was the latest country to launch its vaccination drive on Sunday.
Bed occupancy in Covid-19 intensive care units in Lebanon, which saw a spike in cases after the December holidays, stood at more than 89 percent on Friday.