There is mounting controversy in Lebanon that politicians are poaching scarce vaccine supplies for themselves and their families.

In most countries, politicians receiving the Covid-19 vaccine have been greeted as a confidence-boosting measure aimed at reassuring populations about the safety of the vaccine and dispelling conspiracies.

When Lebanon received the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines on February 13 as part of the World Bank-financed Lebanon Health Resilience Project (LHRP), it was a moment of relief for the country facing several other pressing crises.

The economic crises of 2019 were only compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the Beirut Port blast, resulting in the country drawing to the brink of bankruptcy and political chaos.

The vaccine rollout in Lebanon, however, has fallen prey to cronyism. Reports of politicians skipping the queue and the rich and connected getting early access to the vaccine are becoming widespread.

An official from Amnesty International described what's happening in Lebanon as "not surprising in a country where corruption is endemic."

Unlike most other countries, in Lebanon, the expectation is that politicians who often inspire little public confidence, should wait their turn to get the vaccine.

In a survey by the World Bank, only 4 percent of people in Lebanon thought that the government was good at creating jobs, where 95 percent thought they could only get a job through connections.

After reports that Lebanese politicians were using their influence to get themselves and their families vaccinated, the World Bank, which is funding the programme, threatened to pull the funding.

When a locally based journalist posted that members of parliament who had not registered for a vaccine would be getting it, the World Bank's regional director, Saroj Kumar Jha, tweeted, "This is not in line with the national plan agreed with @WorldBank and we would record it a breach of terms and conditions agreed with us for fair and equitable vaccination. Everyone has to register and wait for their turn!"

As the backlash gathered pace, one member of parliament who had received the vaccination said, "I was not aware of any violation, and if so, I apologise strongly, although I am not responsible for what happened."

So far, Lebanon has administered almost 24,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, which is being administered in designated centres overseen by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

When the IFRC realised that the country's political leadership were vaccinating themselves, it released a scathing statement.

The IFRC "was unaware that President Michel Aoun, his wife and his work team had received the vaccine on Friday, which is a violation to the terms of the national plan," it read, as politicians scrambled to explain why they needed to get the vaccine ahead of time.

One local journalist rebuffed politicians' explanation that their vaccination was necessary for their continued ability to work with one saying, "Your life, your wife, and your team are not more important than the lives of our mothers. There are those who need the vaccine more than you."

For many in Lebanon, the Covid-19 vaccine rollout has become just another symptom of a broken political culture that often allows the rich and powerful to sideline the rest of society. 

Source: TRT World