On 9 August, the first batch of the US Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (JNJ.N) Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Cairo. The 261,600 doses received will be distributed between 126 vaccination centres, with priority given to people travelling abroad.
Khaled Megahed, Ministry of Health spokesman, said the first batch of JNJ.N is the initial shipment of 20 million doses under a contract between Egypt and the African Export-Import Bank. “This month Egypt will receive further shipments of the Oxford AstraZeneca, the Russian Sputnik and the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines via COVAX, a global agreement established by the Geneva-based GAVI vaccine alliance and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the distribution of vaccines. This is in addition to local production of the Covid-19 Sinovac vaccine,” said Megahed.
“The ministry has singled out 126 centres of the country’s 400 centres to vaccinate people who are travelling abroad. These centres will provide travellers with a printed copy of the vaccination certificate with QR codes,” said Megahed. He added that travellers can register on the ministry’s website http://egcovac.mohp.gov.eg and make an appointment for the vaccination within 72 hours.
Five million of the 10 million citizens registered on the ministry’s website have already been vaccinated.
According to Megahed, Egypt will receive 148.2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of this month, sufficient to vaccinate 83.7 million people.
Production of one million doses of the Sinovac vaccine has already begun at Egypt’s Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA).VACSERA is scheduled to produce more than 200 million doses of the vaccine by the end of this year, enough to meet the government’s target of vaccinating 40 million citizens and exporting the surplus.
Health officials are currently examining the possibility of vaccinating children against the highly contagious Delta variant. The Health Ministry’s Scientific Committee to Combat Coronavirus has identified children as particularly vulnerable to the Delta Plus virus. “Vaccinating children aims to boost their immunity against the mutated specie. Vaccinations will be prioritised after the elderly and those with chronic disease have received their jabs,” said Megahed.
Taha Abdel-Hamid Awad, professor of chest diseases and allergies at the Faculty of Medicine, Al-Azhar University, says vaccines are particularly important for children. “Recently there has been a spike in coronavirus infections among children, many of whom are asymptomatic. We need to urgently vaccinate children with chronic diseases such as diabetes, Mediterranean fever, and cancer,” said Awad.
The immunity system of children responds like adults, forming antibodies when they receive vaccines. “The initial target group for vaccination are aged between 12 and 18,” said Awad, who adds that a national awareness campaign to inform children and parents about the importance and benefits vaccination is urgently needed.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly