The Ministry of Health and Population is receiving complaints about the lateness of Covid-19 vaccination messages sent to applicants who have registered for the shots on the ministry’s website.
Mohamed Ahmed, 55, a businessman who registered on the ministry’s website to get the vaccination almost four months ago, has not received the vaccination message yet that stipulates when and where the shot will be taken. “I registered on the ministry’s website in April and did not receive any messages whereas my wife who registered last month received the message and has already got her first shot. I don’t know what I should do to receive my shot,” complained Ahmed.
Egyptians must register to receive the vaccine on website https://www.egcovac.mohp.gov.eg. According to Naglaa Sallam, media coordinator at the Ministry of Health and Population, the vaccination messages are sent first to eligible groups, those who suffer chronic diseases and the elderly. “The ministry was giving priority, in coordination with the Ministry of Education during the last several weeks, to teachers and education staff members especially those working during the Thanaweya Amma [high school] exams,” said Sallam who added they were prioritised because they were among the people categorised as high risk.
Vaccinations were also temporarily halted during the week-long Greater Bairam holiday. They resumed on 25 July at the country’s 400 vaccination centres, Sallam added.
But some people with chronic diseases did not get their messages. Afaf Suleiman, a 63-year-old housewife who is diabetic and suffering from hypertension, registered for the vaccine but has yet to receive any messages. “Two weeks ago, I complained on the ministry’s 15335 hotline about not receiving the vaccination message and they told me I will receive it within the coming few days, but I am still waiting,” Suleiman said.
According to Khaled Megahed, the spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Population, citizens who registered on the ministry’s website and are suffering from more than one chronic disease will be prioritised over people suffering one chronic disease. And a person suffering one chronic disease would be prioritised over those who do not have any illness, Megahed told Al-Ahram Weekly. “This would explain why many people have not yet received their vaccination messages,” Megahed said.
Where people live was another factor in the delay. Megahed said heavily populated cities like Cairo and Alexandria have long waiting lines.
Moreover, he noted, the ministry had to put on hold sending vaccination messages until it secured enough quantities of vaccines. In mid-June, Egypt was scheduled to receive 1.9 million AstraZeneca doses through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) but the shipment was delayed. COVAX is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organisation. A few weeks ago, according to Megahed, Egypt obtained more than two million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, which were subjected to the necessary checks and analysis by the Egyptian Medicines Authority; 610,000 doses were distributed to vaccine centres earlier this week.
According to Megahed, Egypt will receive two million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in the coming few days. Shortly afterward, Egypt will receive Johnson & Johnson shipments. Egypt signed a contract to buy 20 million doses of Johnson & Johnson. Moreover, Egypt is due to receive the substance needed to produce Sinovac vaccines.
The Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA) has already produced the first one million doses of Sinovac, the Chinese biopharmaceutical company, and the ministry will start using it in August. “This would help end the waiting lists faster. Egypt’s daily production for Covid-19 vaccines currently is 300,000 doses,” Megahed said, adding that the government is currently discussing doubling the raw materials Egypt imports to increase the country’s daily production to 600,000 doses. Manufacturing the Sinovac vaccine is part of an agreement signed between VACSERA and Sinovac.
Rumours had gone viral that the ministry had stopped vaccinating people due to the lack of sufficient amounts of vaccines.
The ministry is planning to vaccinate around 40 million of Egypt’s over 100 million population by the end of this year, Megahed added.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 July, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.