Egypt begins texting eligible groups to receive booster shots

Ahram Online , Sunday 19 Dec 2021

Egypt has started sending text notifications to fully vaccinated individuals detailing appointment slots for booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine, as the health authorities appropriate booster types.

An Egyptian medical worker administers a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine (Covishield) on March 4, 2021 in Cairo on the first day of vaccination in Egypt. AFP

The additional shot, meant to provide stronger and longer-lasting protection against the virus and its new variant, may be different from the two initial doses, according to a recently issued circular by the Egyptian Ministry of Health.

Except for the Sputink vaccine, the booster shots for all the vaccines used in the Egyptian inculcation campaign can match the initial doses, with other types recommended as second option in case of the unavailability of the primary vaccines.

People who received two shots of either the AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines may be offered booster shots of the other two types.

Those who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be offered a second shot from AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna.

Those who took two shots of the Sinopharm vaccine may be offered boosters from Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, while those who took Sinovac shots may be offered boosters from Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna.

The recipients of Sputnik vaccine will not be offered booster shots from the same vaccine, according to the health ministry's circular, but will be offered shots from AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna.

The country is currently prioritising the booster shot, which is optional, for an initial group totaling around 4.1 million whose health and work conditions put them at elevated risk of contracting the virus.

The group includes patients who suffer from immunodeficiency, patients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, the elderly, and healthcare workers, the government announced in late November.

Egypt has so for administered some 52 million COVID-19 vaccine doses since the launch of its mass campaign in January.

Acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said on Thursday that the country has currently 64.5 million vaccine doses available for use and will secure up to an additional 23 million booster shots till 30 June 2022.

Omicron plan

Abdel-Ghaffar said on Sunday that Egypt has already prepared a proactive plan to deal with the new Omicron variant, of which the country detected three cases on Thursday.

"We are not worried about Omicron and there is nothing to be afraid of. The health [ministry] has made all the necessary preparations to confront any changes to [coronavirus] infections in Egypt," Abdel-Ghaffar added.

The detected Omicron cases are "quite stable," he told reports during the launch of a national campaign to vaccinate children against polio earlier today.

He added that the Delta plus variant is more dominant globally than Omicron and also causes more complications, offering assurances that the country has tracing and surveillance system in-place that is able to detect any Omicron cases among the arrivals at any of the country's different ports.

Three Egyptian nationals returning from abroad were found to have the variant among 26 arrivals that tested positive for coronavirus at Cairo International Airport on Thursday, the Egyptian health ministry announced on Friday.

Egypt has recently tightened pandemic-related safety measures at its ports, including imposing travel restrictions on travellers coming from south African countries where the new variant – which the World Health Organisation labeled a "variant of concern" – emerged.

Entry into Egypt by land, sea or air is limited to arrivals who are vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the WHO or the Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA); otherwise, arrivals must present a negative PCR test certificate or undergo testing upon arrival.

Passengers coming from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Eswatini, Mozambique and Lesotho to Cairo as a final destination or stopping at Cairo International Airport as a transit point before reaching their final destination will take a rapid test, with positive cases to be deported and negative cases to undergo an additional seven day self-isolation period.

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