Egypt s Minister of Health and Population Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar (first from right) during the inauguration of a fully-automated vaccine cold storage at state-owned VACSERA on Saturday 24 September 2022 (Photo: Ministry of Health and Population)
The construction of the complex started in April in cooperation with China's Sinovac Biotech under an agreement signed between the Egyptian and Chinese sides at the Egyptian embassy in Beijing in January.
The complex is located in 6 October City at the state-owned Holding Company for Vaccines and Biological Products VACSERA, one of the oldest manufacturers of vaccines and sera in Africa and the Middle East.
Abdel-Ghaffar said in a statement issued following the event that the step, which is a contribution from the Chinese company, will help enhance vaccine storage capacities in Egypt and make it a regional hub for the manufacturing and storage of vaccines in Africa.
Egypt has drawn up "a comprehensive" plan to develop VACSERA in line with its strategy to become a centre for the production of vaccines to meet the requirements of African countries, the minister said.
The cooling complex – built by the Chinese construction heavyweight CSCEC company – is built on area of 3,180 square meters, with a capacity to accommodate 100-150 million doses of vaccine annually.
The new facility comprises two cooling rooms at a temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius over an area of 661 square metres and nine meters high each. The rooms are designated for the storage of vaccines, said Heba Waly, CEO of VACSERA, according to the statement.
It also includes three areas for receiving refrigerated trucks, loading and unloading shipments as well as a compartment for checking and recording shipment data, and a freezing room at a temperature of -20 degrees Celsius for storing the analysis materials.
In addition, the complex includes a storage zone over an area of 290 square metres, and a height of 3.45 metres for storing the ready-to-pack bales at a temperature of 2-8 degrees, Waly added, noting that this storage zone is completely separated from the final product storage area.
Each cold room is controlled via a dual cooling system; one for use and another as a backup, with the complex's control and monitoring room containing screens to monitor the vaccine transfer process and monitor temperatures as well as an alarm system and fire extinguishing system, she added.
The complex is managed automatically without any human intervention in using the warehouse management system WMS, which controls the storage of vaccines in a way that improves work efficiency and organises storage spaces, Waly explained.
VACSERA has a cooling facility at its company in Agouza, in which it preserves its vaccines, but it is run manually with 100-percent human intervention, Waly said in an interview with Xinhua in February.
Minister Abdel-Ghaffar said good storage is one of the most important factors for maintaining vaccines, as they are composed of biological materials that lose their effectiveness and ability to generate immunity against diseases when exposed to inappropriate temperatures.
VACSERA and Sinovac started cooperation in April 2021 with two agreements to produce the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine locally in Egypt under the name Sinovac/VACSERA for both domestic use and export to African countries.
The cooperation between both sides has so far resulted in manufacturing of 40 million dose of Sinovac/VACSERA, Minister Abdel-Ghaffar said during the inauguration.
Today's event witnessed the signing of a document of receipt of 10 million doses of coronavirus Sinovac vaccine as part of a total of 60 million doses provided by the Chinese government to the north African country.
Minister Abdel-Ghaffar said Egypt's stock of coronavirus vaccines is sufficient until 2023, according to a statement issued by the health ministry following the inauguration.
The complex’s inauguration was attended by presidential adviser for health affairs Mohamed Awad Tag El-Din, Chairman of the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement (UPA) Bahaa El-Din Zidan, WHO Representative in Egypt Naeema Al-Gasseer, among others.