Egypt is marking the second stage of the inoculation campaign with the beginning of the much-anticipated roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine targeting priority groups.
The first stage, focused on medical staff, was launched on January.
In the plus-100 million population country, the coronavirus has claimed more than 10,000 lives and infected more than 180,000 people nationwide.
Egypt announced on Tuesday that the website launched by health ministry for people to register to receive the vaccine will be ready as of Sunday. Following registration, the people will receive a text message indicating the time and location for receiving the vaccine.
The optional vaccine shots were offered free of charge for medical personnel while it is set to be offered at a price of EGP200 (around $13) for the general public. The two-dose shot will be offered to the neediest people free of charge, the state stressed.
The registration website is linked to the programme of social protection named Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity) to ensure that the needy have access to vaccines.
Health Minister Hala Zayed stated on television that the set price is pitched to ensure the “sustainable availability” of the vaccines, since it is still unknown whether the shots will be taken once in a lifetime or yearly. Vaccination will be available in 40 health units in Egypt's 27 governorates.
The vaccination strategy prioritises those who suffer the hardest from chronic diseases -- excluding patients with stable cases of chronic diabetes and hypertension -- and those who are above 40 years, and the elderly, according to Zayed.
“The website’s software supports a system that arranges the priority of vaccination according to data about the number and severity of chronic diseases along with the age, without any human intervention,” Zayed said.
The first week of March will see the beginning of the immunisation programme for citizens who reserved shots on the website, according to Zayed. Reservation is also available at hospitals, not only online.
With the recovery of about 139,000 patients, Egypt has passed the second coronavirus wave that started in late December, ending in late January.
The country’s health authorities have held many debates to settle for safest and most effective vaccines that don't have side effects on the short and long terms.
China’s Sinopharm was on top of the list. It was the first anti-Covid vaccine Egypt obtained. Then comes Oxford University’s AstraZeneca, Russia’s Sputnik V, which was the latest drug approved in Egypt for emergency use this week. Concerning the US’ Pfizer, the government is in contact with the giant pharmaceutical firm to provide the registration file for the vaccine in Egypt.
Egypt has 400,000 doses in stock. The first batch of 50,000 doses were supplied as a gift by the Emirati government from Sinopharm in December.
A second 50,000 batch was shipped by AstraZeneca in January. A third batch that includes 300,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, which is the biggest to enter Egypt till now, was supplied by the Chinese government as a gift.
Egypt is set to secure 100 million doses to cover 50 million people, according to the health minister’s statements on the number of targeted shots, in which 40 million doses will be from the Sinopharm vaccine, 40 million doses from Gavi alliance, and 20 million from AstraZeneca.
Speaking about how many will be inoculated in Egypt until the end of 2021, “65 percent of the population are under 30 years, which means that the number of the population who are older than 30 ranges between 35 to 40 million. Our targeted contracts will cover 50 million persons,” according to Zayed’s interview with ON E, a privately-owned TV channel.
Egypt was the first African country to receive Sinopharm, developed by China’s National Pharmaceutical Group. The 50,000 doses shipment arrived at Cairo airport as a gift from the United Arab Emirates, which had been carrying out phase three of clinical trials of the vaccine. The vaccine was previously experimented on about a million people in China in an emergency programme.
Egypt’s health ministry held a series of meetings with representatives of US Pfizer company, the regional office of Pfizer in Dubai and Egypt Pfizer in the attendance of representatives from the Scientific Committee to Combat Coronavirus, the Egyptian Drug Authority, the Unified Procurement Authority and the Armed Forces, said Zayed in an interview with MBC, a satellite channel.
Ahmed Hemdan is the first nurse to be vaccinated on the first day of the medical teams’ vaccination campaign that started from the isolation hospital of Abu Khalifa in Ismailia governorate in northeastern Egypt.
Egypt's Unified Procurement Authority (UPA) announced it had received the shipment of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine manufactured in India, as part of a bigger plan set by Egypt to diversify the sources of the anti-Covid vaccine.
The batch, which consists of 50,000 doses, is part of Egypt’s deal with the Global Vaccine Alliance and Immunisations (GAVI) to cover 20 percent of the total needs of the vaccine, with an amount of 40 million doses.
The drug is developed by India's R-pharma and Serum Institute. An official deal between the UPA and Indian firms was inked on 23 January.
GAVI, an international scheme aiming to ensure equal access to new and under-used vaccines, is expected to grant Egypt a total of 40 million doses of one type of the coronavirus vaccine throughout 2021.
Zayed announced that Egypt signed a contract with a company she refused to name. The announcement was made during a virtual meeting with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to assess the repercussions of Covid-19 in Africa.
“Vaccines are not the final solution to end the pandemic, but more developments will lead to more effective vaccines. Precautionary measures must be adhered to,” she said during the meeting.
In September, WHO’s delegation of international experts hailed Egypt’s vaccine maker Vacsera in a visit to assess the quality of production lines.
Amid the growing global demand for vaccines, Egypt aims to export vaccines to neighbouring African countries at affordable prices, according to statements by health authorities reiterating Egypt’s plans about local manufacturing.
Zayed's statements came hours after Egypt received a free shipment of 300,000 Sinopharm doses as a gift from Beijing, raising the country’s supply of the Chinese vaccine to 350,000 doses.
China's Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang said the shipment is a symbolic gift that expresses China's support for Egypt, adding that "we are returning a favour to Egypt."
Last year, Egypt provided China, the US, Italy, the UK, Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan and 30 African countries with tons of preventive medical items, equipment, and sanitation tools to help deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Also on 23 February, Zayed said on television that Egypt will receive 8.6 million doses during the first week of March, “which is part of a deal between the government and GAVI to receive a batch of doses every three months.”
The Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) announced its approval of the emergency use of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, making it the third vaccine to be authorised for use in the country.
In September, Russia's Investment Fund (RIF) approved supplying Egypt with 25 million doses of Sputnik via Pharco, which it described as one of the country's leading pharmaceutical groups, Reuters said.
Local reports last year say that Pharco will start manufacturing the Russian vaccine starting April as per a memorandum of understanding between Biogenix Corporation, an affiliate of Pharco Pharmaceutical Group, and the RIF. In mid-January, the Russian embassy expressed its interest in providing Cairo with the technology needed for manufacturing Sputnik.