Egypt considering inoculating high school students with Pfizer vaccine: Minister Zayed

Mohamed Soliman , Monday 4 Oct 2021

Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed announced on Monday that the government may soon vaccinate high school students with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as the country is currently studying lowering the 18-year age limit for COVID-19 immunisation.

Hala Zayed & Jonathan Cohen
Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed speaks during a press conference with the US Ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen in Cairo on Monday, 4 October 2020 (photo: Egypt s Ministry of Health)

“It is very likely we will inoculate youngsters and children under the age of 18 with Pfizer shots, especially since the president favours vaccinating secondary school pupils,” Zayed said in a joint presser with the US Ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen in Cairo.

The press conference was held to discuss the details of using the recently received shipment of 1.6 million Pfizer doses from the US and the remaining 6.4 million that will arrive in Egypt by the end of October.

The Pfizer vaccine, which is administered in two shots 21 days apart, is undergoing authorisation in the US and other countries for use in children aged 12-17.

“A decision regarding vaccinating children as well as offering a third (booster) shot to citizens who were inoculated at least 6-8 months ago will be taken within the week,” Hossam Hosny, the head of the Scientific Committee to Combat the Coronavirus at the Ministry of Health, said in a statement released last week.

Egypt has recently mandated coronavirus vaccination for all teaching staff, employees, and workers, as well as students who are 18 years of age or older at lower and higher education institutions.

The government has also barred unvaccinated individuals from entering educational institutions in the upcoming academic year, which starts on 9 October.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has recently stressed that the country’s vaccination campaign should target high school students whenever attainable.

“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.

The country’s vaccination campaign has recently shifted into high gears to cover students and staff in the educational sector.

Egypt is now providing immediate vaccinations for university students at 270 youth centres countrywide without prior online registration.

The government seeks to guarantee a safe academic year for all students and staff amid the fourth wave of the pandemic, particularly with the return of in-person classes at schools and universities.

According to Minister Zayed, Egypt is witnessing a stable rate of infections and deaths during this new wave, which started in early August and is expected to last till November, due to the increase in vaccination rates among the public.

“We expect that if October passes without a spike in cases, the fourth wave will recede,” the minister added.

Zayed stressed that in the event the country witnesses an increase in infections in the coming period, classes at schools and universities will not be suspended since all students, workers and employees in the education sector will have been vaccinated by then.

The minister noted that up to 70 percent of school staffers nationwide have already received the vaccine, with the rate in universities at 90 percent.

She also announced that around 35 percent of university students have also received jabs. 

More Pfizer doses on the way

On Thursday, Egypt received 1.6 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine as a donation from the United States via the COVAX initiative, a scheme that aims to equitably distribute vaccines worldwide.

During the presser today, Zayed thanked the US government for the gift, explaining that the shipment is part of a larger designated package totaling eight million doses.

The US is due to ship the remaining doses by the end of October, Zayed noted.

US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen said that “Egypt is a priority destination for Pfizer donations from the United States.”

Cohen also thanked Egypt for shipping medical supplies to the US in 2020 when the US was in need of such materials during its fight against the pandemic.

An Egyptian military plane filled with medical aid and protective suits was dispatched to the US in April 2020 to help with the coronavirus as the infection and death rates were on an unprecedented upward trend in the first wave of the pandemic. 

“We were and still are thankful for this gesture,” Cohen added.

He assured that President Joe Biden is keen that the US be an arsenal that supplies the world with vaccines, saying “supporting Egypt with the vaccines is a confirmation to his speech.”

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