First batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrives in northwest Syria

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IDLIB, Syria, April 21 (Reuters) - Northwest Syria received its first batch of coronavirus vaccinations through the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX on Wednesday with inoculations set to start May 1.

A total of 54,000 doses of the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine arrived in Syria's Idlib, the first for opposition-held Syrian territory, through the Bab al Hawa border crossing with Turkey.

Two more batches are expected to arrive throughout the year to cover around 850,000 people in northwest Syria, said Hossam Kora, who heads coordination for coronavirus within the Idlib health directorate.

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Priority will be given to medical and humanitarian workers, those above 60 years old and those with chronic diseases, he said.

The World Health Organisation had said the first rollout of COVAX vaccines in Syria would begin in early May and aims to inoculate nearly 20% of Syria's population by year-end or almost 5 million people in both government-held areas and the northeast and northwest. read more (Graphic of global vaccinations)

Syria was hard hit by the pandemic last year during two spikes in August and December and with another spike in infections in the last month. (Graphic of global COVID cases and deaths)

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Reporting by Khalil Ashawi; Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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