The government is currently in negotiations with China to obtain a licence to manufacture the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine Sinovac locally, Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed announced during a joint press conference on 22 March with China’s Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang.
According to Zayed, Egypt might sign the agreement by the end of this month to start producing the vaccine to cover local needs as well as exporting it to African countries. In December last year, Zayed revealed that a production line in the state-owned vaccine producer VACSERA was being set up to manufacture coronavirus vaccines.
Moreover, the Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) has granted a factory the licence to produce the first experimental samples of an Egyptian coronavirus vaccine, Covi Vax, the spokesman for the minister of health and population Khaled Megahed said. “Egypt is the first country in the Middle East to manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine,” Megahed said.
Research on the Egyptian vaccine has been published in a specialised international scientific journal, having proven its efficiency in laboratory experiments and experiments on animals, according to Megahed.
As the EDA has granted its approval to produce the first experimental batch, the vaccine should then pass three stages of clinical trials. “The first phase includes trying it on a small number of people to ensure it is safe for humans. The second would comprise 100-500 volunteers whereas the final and third stage would be tested on around 50,000 volunteers from several countries in order to achieve genetic diversity,” explained Megahed.
The first phase of clinical trials would start next week, whereas the three stages would be completed within the coming six months. “The vaccine is then to be approved by the WHO as well as concerned global authorities.
“Egypt is seeking to produce three different types of Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.
Research on producing Egyptian vaccines started in April 2020 after President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi instructed all concerned authorities to work on producing an Egyptian Covid-19 vaccine to be on a par with other countries, Megahed said.
Egypt received the first batch of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine in December 2020. In the same month, the ministry signed an agreement to receive 20 million doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
Egypt has not received the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, according to Zayed who noted that the country would be receiving enough of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine to inoculate 20 per cent of Egypt’s overall population.
In January 2021, Egypt received 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In February 2021, the third batch of the Sinopharm doses was received, and the minister announced then that the government would import 100 million more vaccine doses. Egypt received 300,000 additional doses of Sinopharm on 20 March, bringing the total number of the doses Egypt has received since December to 650,000.
Meanwhile, Egypt also announced that it had approved the emergency use of the Russian Sputnik vaccine and reserved around 10 million doses.
Among the vital categories that would be receiving the vaccine after those suffering chronic diseases and the elderly are those working in tourism and banking. Zayed said during the press conference that by the end of next week around 250,000 patients suffering from chronic disease would be vaccinated.
Those who registered for the vaccine can take it via any of the ministry’s 600 hospitals and 5,000 healthcare units.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 25 March, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly