‘Wait and see’: Egyptians approach Covid-19 vaccines cautiously

Reem Leila , Thursday 8 Apr 2021

While many Egyptians appear reluctant to register for the Covid-19 vaccine, those who have are facing problems

‘Wait and see’
‘Wait and see’

Around 928,000 citizens have registered on the Ministry of Health and Population’s Covid-19 vaccine website since registration opened a month ago and a total of 177,000 vaccines have been administered.

“People must register on the site as soon as possible in order to limit the spread of the virus,” said Ministry of Health Spokesperson Khaled Megahed. He stressed that the vaccine, as well as helping to protect against infection, also ensured that symptoms remained mild to moderate in cases of infection.

On Monday Egypt reported 767 new Covid-19 infections compared to 709 the day before, bringing the total to 205,732 confirmed cases.

“I come from a family that has hereditary chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure but none of my relatives has applied to take the vaccine,” says Ahmed Abdel-Razek. He explained that his family prefers to wait-and-see if the vaccines have any side effects.

All the vaccines used in Egypt and the rest of the world are safe and effective, insists Hossam Hosni, head of the Scientific Committee to combat coronavirus. “Countries across the world have started vaccinating their nationals, and some countries are close to completing their vaccination process.”

The Health Ministry began its vaccination campaign by targeting medical staff and on Tuesday began to vaccinate workers in the tourism sector in South Sinai and the Red Sea. It plans to vaccinate all tourism workers before summer begins. 

Meanwhile, people with chronic diseases and the elderly who have registered on the Ministry of Health’s website complain they have no idea when they will receive their first shots.

“My son helped me register a month ago and I haven’t received any notification about where or when I will be vaccinated,” says Marwa Sayed, a housemaid in her late fifties.

Sayed says her neighbour, who registered on the website two weeks ago, has already received a message and has been called for her first shot.

Many of the elderly who are suffering from chronic disease did not specify the disease from which they suffer, says Megahed. Others claimed falsely that they were suffering from chronic disease in the belief this would see them be prioritised when in fact it is causing delays.

Mohsena Fouad, who accompanied her 70-year-old mother to be vaccinated, reported a long wait. “We arrived early in the morning only to leave and return in the evening. The vaccination centres are very crowded. I wonder why the ministry schedules so many people for their shot simultaneously?”

Vaccines are being administered via 600 hospitals and 5,000 healthcare units, says Megahed. He says delays are caused not by a shortage of staff to administer the shots but because “doctors have to measure the applicant’s temperature, blood pressure, percentage of oxygen in the blood, as well as examining the lungs and throat, and this all takes time.”

Last week Egypt received 854,400 Covid-19 vaccine doses from COVAX, the international coalition that includes the World Health Organisation and which aims is to accelerate the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines and guarantee fair and equitable access. Egypt has received 1.6 million doses of different types of vaccines since December, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said on Thursday.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 April, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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