File Photo: Egyptian high school students wearing protective face masks walk down the stairs during the first day of final exams, amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Cairo, Egypt June 21, 2020. REUTERS
"No steps have been taken to inoculate children under 18 so far," Noha Assem, the health minister’s adviser for research affairs, told the media on Saturday evening, but noted that "lowering the age [of receiving the vaccine] is under study."
Vaccination is mandatory for all teaching staff, employees, and workers, as well as students who are 18 or above at lower and higher education institutions in Egypt, with unvaccinated people to be barred from entering the premises, according to a government decision issued in August.
At the time, the government’s decision did not mention school pupils, who are under 18.
However, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has assured, if possible, the country’s vaccination campaign will target high-school pupils.
“We seek to achieve high vaccination rates in a short period of time to achieve herd immunity,” the president said during an event in September.
Assem's remarks come days after Ministry of Health Spokesman Khaled Megahed said "the state intends to start vaccinating 12- to 18-year-olds soon, but the vaccine that will be administered has not been determined yet."
The government’s decision to vaccinate the education sector staff comes in parallel with the return of in-person classes at Egyptian schools and universities in October.
Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said in TV statements on Saturday that the ministry is scheduled to finish vaccinating its employees, faculty members, and 20% of university students by 9 October.
Students will not be enrolled in any room in the university dormitories before they get the coronavirus vaccines, Abdel-Ghaffar said.
Students who do not wish to obtain the vaccine must perform a PCR swab every week in the laboratories of the higher education ministry to be allowed to attend classes.
Over 13 million people have been vaccinated so far in Egypt since the beginning of the inoculation campaign earlier this year.
The country also seeks to widen its vaccination coverage – by including all public servants – as the country is currently seeing a rise in infections and fatalities due to the pandemic's fourth wave, which has been felt since early August and is expected to hit its peak in the coming days.
The number of positive cases is expected to rise in the coming period, Assem underscored.
Egypt has recorded a total of 300,945, including 17,149 deaths and 254,060 recoveries thus far.
Health Minister Hala Zayed has said the government “is considering giving booster shots of coronavirus vaccines to citizens who were inoculated at least 6-8 months ago,” but Assem said studies are being carried out currently on whether or not the coronavirus vaccine will be retaken after a long period of time.
"Most probably the vaccine will be administered seasonally," she noted, adding that the country also is studying combining coronavirus and flu vaccines in one shot.