Egypt will not administer any coronavirus vaccine until it is 100 per cent sure of their safety and efficacy, stressed Mohamed Awad Tag El-Din, the presidential adviser for health affairs, on Tuesday.
The government's medical and scientific committees will first examine the vaccines before approving them, he explained.
Tag El-Din made the statement during a press conference held at El-Itihadeyah Presidential Palace at a time when the public remains hesitant about receiving a coronavirus vaccine.
Egypt received a first batch of coronavirus vaccines from the Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm on 10 December.
The Egyptian health ministry said it would be available to the public free of charge.
Minister of Health Hala Zayed, who herself received two doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine in November during its phase three clinical trials carried out in Egypt, said that the Sinopharm vaccine has proven 86 per cent efficacious against coronavirus, 99 per cent efficacious in producing antibodies, and 100 per cent effective in patients suffering from moderate to severe symptoms.
Zayed also announced that more batches of the Chinese vaccine -- which has been approved for mass vaccination in various countries including China, the UAE, and Bahrain -- would reach Egypt from the UAE in the following weeks.
She explained that “priority in distributing the vaccine will be given to the medical staff in isolation hospitals, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly.”
Egyptians wishing to obtain the vaccine will be able to register their data on a website that the ministry announced it is going to launch by the end of this week.
Monitoring and diversification
The presidential health adviser stressed that Egypt would only allow the administration of vaccines that had proven effective and safe in treating the respiratory virus.
So far, Tag El-Din said, all the internationally developed vaccines have been registered as emergency vaccines and international bodies are still monitoring their performance.
"We are monitoring the recently developed vaccines worldwide and their progress in scientific research. Egypt will diversify its sources of vaccines," Tag El-Din said.
Egypt has signed a cooperation protocol with GAVI Alliance to ensure its share of any vaccine manufactured to counter the coronavirus, he added.
Cabinet Spokesman Nader Saad recently said that Egypt is expected to receive doses of one of the coronavirus vaccines in May 2021 from GAVI.
Egypt is, Zayed said on Friday, in talks with Sinovac Biotech to manufacture the Chinese company’s coronavirus vaccine, in order to meet the demand of Egyptians and other African nations.
Zayed earlier stated that Egypt has reserved doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by the US Pfizer pharmaceutical corporation, which would cover up to 20 per cent of the country’s needs.
She emphasised that Egypt has also secured doses of a promising British vaccine developed by Oxford University that will meet around 30 per cent of the country’s needs.
In September, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund agreed to supply 25 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, which Moscow started using for mass vaccination last week, to Egypt via Pharco, one of Russia’s leading pharmaceutical groups.
Russia started mass vaccination of its citizens last week.
Tag El-Din explained on Tuesday that the state has allocated EGP 100 billion to confront the repercussions of the coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic, of which EGP 70 billion have been allocated to the health ministry and EGP30 billion to rehabilitate and raise the efficiency of university hospitals.
Egypt has 77 chest and fever hospitals, a figure that is unprecedented internationally, distributed nationwide for isolating coronavirus patients, the presidential adviser noted.
Need for vigilance
Egypt has recently witnessed a rebound of coronavirus cases after months of decline amid a public relaxed adherence to precautionary measures.
Egypt passed the 500-patient a day mark for the first time since July on Monday, while on Tuesday it recorded 523 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total infection tally to 122,609 since the outbreak began in February.
"Regardless of the name of the vaccination, it does not substitute for adhering to the precautionary measures," Tag El-Din said, echoing a previous statement by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi who had stressed that the awareness of citizens was the “true vaccine”.
In November, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly stressed that the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic “is more widespread and dangerous than the first”, reaffirming the necessity for citizens to adhere to precautionary measures to curb the spread of the virus, and stressing the need for all concerned bodies to strictly apply protective measures in workplaces and production sites.
In light of the public’s noticeable non-compliance with preventative measures, he reiterated that the country “will exercise zero tolerance” against people or facilities that fail to adhere to preventive measures against the pandemic.