Syria gets donation of 150,000 COVID shots from China

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A batch of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Damascus

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - A donation by China of 150,000 doses of its Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Damascus on Saturday, with another batch of the same size planned, Syrian officials said.

"We appreciate this aid which will allow the health ministry to combat the pandemic, to curb its impact on health, society and the economy," the health minister, Hassan Ghabash, told reporters at the airport.

He said the shots would go first to healthcare workers, and then to the elderly and people with chronic diseases.

The Chinese ambassador to Syria said the next 150,000 doses would arrive soon.

Officials have said the country is also discussing vaccines with Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's key ally, but no announcements have been made over receiving shots from Moscow.

Damascus this week got its first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from the global COVAX initiative, nearly 200,000 AstraZeneca shots, U.N officials said. More deliveries are expected in coming weeks.

The World Health Organization has deployed teams across Syria for a vaccination programme that will be rolled out both in government territory and some parts of the country outside state control after ten years of war.

(Reporting by Firas Makdesi and Kinda Makieh in Damascus; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)