Egypt is expecting new batches of Covid-19 vaccine, Sinopharm from China and Oxford/AstraZeneca, to arrive by the end of this month.
As soon as the batches arrive, the ministry will start calling on the public to take the vaccine which will be available free of charge.
Ministry of Health and Population Spokesman Khaled Megahed said the vaccine will be available at the ministry’s hospitals and medical centres throughout the governorates. “As soon as the vaccine reaches the country, the ministry will activate the website on which the public can log on and register their names to take the vaccine. The ministry will start giving the public the vaccine on 1 February,” Megahed said.
Egypt had approved the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine earlier this month. The first batch of vaccines, which arrived in December, was tested by the Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) to ensure its safety for use, Health Minister Hala Zayed had announced at the time.
The first batch of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should also be arriving soon. Zayed said last week that the registration of the vaccine by the EDA “is around the corner”. Once the EDA approval is clinched, Egypt will sign the deal for the import of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Meanwhile, Egypt, in collaboration with Russia, is getting ready to produce the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in Egypt. Mohamed Hassani, assistant to the minister of health for initiatives and member of the ministry’s Scientific Committee to Combat Covid-19, told Al-Ahram Weekly Egypt will be manufacturing the vaccine to cover the needs of Africa and the Middle East region.
Hassani said that the health minister, speaking during a videoconference meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government and heads of regional economic assemblies which took place on 14 January, announced that Egypt had joined the Covid-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT).
“The AVATT initiative will speed up the African contribution in the vaccine’s clinical development, and will overcome all the financial challenges to provide vaccines to eligible groups as well as help Egypt’s capabilities to manufacture and distribute the vaccine among African citizens,” Hassani said, adding that the Russian vaccine is the cheapest at less than $10 per dose.
According to Hassani, the Russian vaccine will be manufactured in Egypt and Algeria to fulfil the needs of all African countries. “Russia is ready to transfer technology to produce this vaccine in Egypt which has an adequate production base,” said a statement by the Russian Embassy in Egypt, adding that this will allow for the widest possible vaccination campaign.
According to Hassani, “the Russian clinical research file is currently being examined by the Health Ministry’s research committee in order to conduct the clinical studies on it in Egypt.”
This is not the first time Egypt participates in clinical studies on Covid-19 vaccines. It has conducted clinical trials in cooperation with the Chinese government and the UAE G42 Healthcare Company on the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine in its third phase in September last year with 3,000 volunteers. Although Hassani did not specify when the trials were performed, he said clinical trials were one of the factors that allowed the ministry’s scientific committee to approve the production of the vaccine in Egypt.
The statement by the Russian Embassy said the results of clinical trials and the experience of implementing comprehensive vaccinations against the novel coronavirus in Russia and other countries have proven that Sputnik V is one of the three most effective vaccines produced in the world so far, more than 90 per cent effective.
The statement stressed that, unlike other vaccines, it does not require expensive special equipment for deep freeze and can be stored and moved in a 2+ to 8+ degree heat bike, which allows delivery to remote areas.
According to a September 2020 announcement on the Sputnik V website, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, and Pharco, one of the leading pharmaceutical groups in Egypt, acting through its key operational subsidiary Biogeneric Pharma, have agreed to secure the supply of 25 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine for Egypt.
Egypt officially entered the second wave of the pandemic after cases rose steadily throughout November and December. By Monday, the country’s total infection tally had reached 157,275, while the death toll hit 8,638.
Government officials have been urging the public to abide by precautionary measures taken against the virus, and the cabinet has called on authorities to strictly enforce fines stipulated for violations on people who do not wear face masks in public transportation, indoor public places and government establishments.
People who do not wear facemasks are fined LE50 on the spot, whereas public places especially restaurants and cafés which surpass 50 per cent capacity pay an immediate fine of LE4,000.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 January, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.