The Egyptian pharmaceutical company Pharco will begin production of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V before the end of the year. Egypt is also due to begin manufacturing the Chinese Sinovac vaccine locally and is in talks to manufacture the British AstraZeneca vaccine. Research is also ongoing to develop an Egyptian vaccine.
According to a press release by the Ministry of Health and Population, three million vaccine doses will be manufactured daily in a new complex owned by the Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA). Established at a total cost of around $33 million, the complex, the largest plant for vaccine production in the Middle East and Africa, includes eight laboratories and the capacity to store 150 million doses at optimum temperatures.
Ministry of Health Spokesman Khaled Megahed says the VACSERA complex is expected to produce 40 million doses of the Chinese vaccine this year, with the first two million expected to be available within a month.
Around two million people have been vaccinated since February, and a further 3.5 million have registered for the jab. The number of vaccine centres has been increased to 400 nationwide to cater for the increased demand for vaccination.
Megahed said Egypt is first aiming for self-sufficiency in vaccine production, after which it will begin to export vaccines to Arab and African countries.
“We do not want to depend on a single source to supply us with vaccines, and we intend to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the population as soon as possible,” said Megahed.
Chest diseases consultant and member of the Egyptian Society of Allergy and Immunology Magdy Badran says importing vaccines “is an expensive process, and in some cases may be subject to political whims, thus threatening the availability of the required quantities”.
“Providing large quantities of them in Egypt will reduce the spread of the virus gradually, until we reach the stage of herd immunity, and this could happen within the coming few months.”
Vaccines stimulate the immune response to the COVID-19 virus, providing vaccinated individuals with protection from severe complications and reducing the possibility of transmission.
“All the vaccines recognised by the WHO so far are effective in protecting against critical conditions in case of COVID-19 infection,” says Badran. “It is possible that we will need to vaccinate citizens annually with booster doses if COVID-19 turns into a seasonal, endemic, or changeable virus.”
Badran advises people to continue to apply precautionary measures even when vaccinated.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly