The World Bank announced Thursday it will put $34 million into a program to provide coronavirus vaccines for more than two million people in Lebanon, which is experiencing a major surge in Covid-19 cases, marking the first such outlay of funds by the Bank.
"This is the first World Bank-financed operation to fund the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines," the Washington-based institution said in a statement.
Lebanon, a country of more than six million, has been logging some 5,500 cases a day since the start of the year, the Bank said.
It entered a strict 11-day lockdown last Thursday after recording a 70-percent uptick in infections in one of the steepest increases in transmission worldwide.
Under the World Bank plan, the vaccines would arrive by early February. It did not specify which lab it was partnering with.
The $34 million are being reallocated under the existing Lebanon Health Resilience Project, funded by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Beyond the human toll, the pandemic is exacerbating the economic crisis in Lebanon, the World Bank said.
The vaccine will go first to "priority groups": high-risk health care workers, those over the age of 65, "epidemiological and surveillance staff," and those aged 55-64 with underlying conditions.
"Fair, broad, and fast access to Covid-19 vaccines is critical to protecting lives and supporting economic recovery," World Bank President David Malpass said.
"This is an important first operation and I look forward to continuing our support to many more countries in their vaccination efforts."
The vaccination drive will be carried out in coordination with the Lebanese government, the statement read.
The Bank is working closely with over 100 countries to pave the way for them to receive low-interest loans and funding to purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines as part of a new $12 billion initiative approved in October.