Jordan's coronavirus vaccination programme to start next week - minister

CAIRO/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Jordan’s health minister on Saturday said the country’s COVID-19 vaccination programme will start within days.

The state news agency cited Nathir Obeidat as saying the rollout would start on Wednesday following the expected arrival of the first batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Monday. Supplies of the vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) would also arrive Saturday night.

Jordan had said on Jan. 3 it had struck a deal with Pfizer and partner BioNTech to buy 1 million doses of their vaccine and another 2 million doses from the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme, which aims to vaccinate people in poor and middle income countries.

Obeidat has previously said the government intends to rollout a free inoculation programme for more than 20 percent of the country’s 10 million population.

The vaccination programme will prioritise the elderly, those with underlying conditions and health sector workers, the minister said on Saturday.

The government had reached initial understandings with AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson for their vaccines, he added.

Jordan, which has seen a sharp drop in infections since a second wave peaked in November when there was around 60 deaths per day, had recorded a total of 305,959 cases as of Saturday, with 4,009 deaths.

Reporting by Nayera Abdallah in Cairo and Maha El Dahan in Beirut; Editing by Peter Graff and Mike Harrison