Syria’s Autonomous Administration fears not having coronavirus vaccine

HASAKAH, Syria (North Press) – The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) is communicating with the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its fears over the potential inability to obtain the coronavirus vaccine due to political disputes with the Syrian government on the background of security tensions.

Jiwan Mustafa, co-chair of the AANES Health Board, told North Press that there are already difficulties in obtaining other vaccinations, such as children’s vaccinations, as a result of the obstacles that the Syrian government creates.

Mustafa expressed his fears of not receiving a coronavirus vaccine and exploitation by the Syrian government.  

He discussed communication with the WHO with the aim of obtaining the vaccine and submitting a proposal in this regard, without revealing the details.

However, medical sources close to the Syrian government say that the WHO is discussing with Damascus a mechanism to distribute the vaccine over the entire Syrian geography, which is divided between different military forces.  

The same sources added to North Press that the Syrian government rejects the “interference” of the WHO in distributing the vaccine, recalling the message of the Syrian Minister of Health.  

On December 15, 2020, the Syrian government submitted a formal request to participate in the COVAX agreement, which would make it one of ninety-two countries seeking to obtain the vaccine with economic aid.  

COVAX is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to the coronavirus vaccine, launched by the WHO last year.

According to a list of countries that will receive the COVAX, Syria’s allocation has reached one million and twenty thousand doses, which is initial expectations.   

In a session of the Syrian Parliament held on January 21, Syrian Minister of Health Hassan al-Ghabbash said that “the government is seeking to obtain the Covid-19 vaccine according to several conditions, the most important of which is that it should not be at the expense of Syrian sovereignty and the health of the citizens.”   

Earlier in February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for ensuring wider and more equitable distribution of the vaccine throughout Syria, including all areas under the control of different groups.

HRW said that the Syrian government “has repeatedly withheld food, medicine, and vital aid from political and civil opponents.”  

The HRW accused the UN Security Council of failing to “maintain a system of cross-border aid for northeastern Syria, which means that there is no guaranteed channel to distribute the vaccine to the two million people living there.”

Since January 2020, the UN Security Council has closed the Tel Kocher (Yaroubiya) border crossing between Syria and Iraq under the threat of a Russian-Chinese veto, which the UN agencies and relief organizations used to deliver humanitarian aid to areas in north and east Syria.   

The UN organizations are required to obtain permission from the government to transfer aid from areas under its control to areas of northeastern and northwestern Syria which are not under its control.

However, the government frequently withholds or delays permission, and has refused to allow UN organizations to establish coronavirus testing laboratories in northeastern Syria, according to HRW.

Reporting by Hosheng Hassan