From 15 November, unvaccinated government employees will only be able to access their offices if they take a PCR test each week, which they must pay for themselves, or provide a medical certificate from a government hospital giving valid medical reasons for why they cannot take the vaccine. The move is part of government efforts to nudge citizens towards vaccination. The government employs around six million civil servants.
Unvaccinated university students will also be banned from entering universities starting 15 November. Students who refuse to take the vaccine will not be allowed to sit for exams.
From 1 December, citizens will be refused entry to government buildings unless they are vaccinated, meaning they will be unable to access a host of government services, including issuing identification cards and passports.
According to Cabinet Spokesperson Nader Saad, there are three ways that citizens can show they are vaccinated. The easiest and simplest way is to show the certificate issued by the medical centre that administered the vaccine. Electronically readable QR code certificates, which Saad says are “secure, and cannot be forged”, can also be shown or, alternatively, the Health Ministry’s Egypt Health Passport mobile application can be used. It requires an ID and vaccine registration number and indicates whether someone is vaccinated or not.
Around 12 million Egyptians have received two doses of the vaccine, and 25 million a first dose, and the capacity exists to vaccinate 500,000 people a day, according to Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar. Egypt is also expected to have 60 million vaccine doses available by the end of this month, sufficient for 30 million people.
Against a backdrop of increasing daily infection rates and fatalities, the Ministry of Health has started vaccinating people aged between 15 and 18 with the Pfizer vaccine.
“There are now eight million doses available of the Pfizer vaccine which are being allocated to young people,” says Manal Salama, coordinator of the Ministry’s Scientific Committee for Combating Covid-19.
The effects of the Pfizer vaccine on children are similar to other vaccines on adults, says Salama. “Vaccinated children could experience mild fever, headache, general fatigue, and pain in the joints for one or two days. The Pfizer vaccine is more than 95 per cent effective, and all children between 15 and 18 can now register on the ministry’s vaccination website.”
Only the Pfizer vaccine, which had been approved by the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) for children, will be administered to this age group, she adds.
Salama also revealed that “during the first quarter of 2022, the Ministry of Health plans to start administering boosters to medical sector workers and the elderly, with boosters for non-priority groups to follow.”
In a television interview, Abdel-Ghaffar revealed that Egypt is negotiating to import Paxlovid, a new antiviral Covid-19 medicine manufactured by Pfizer. A similar product, Merck Sharp and Dohme’s Molnupiravir, was recently approved by the UK.
“These are the first antiviral medications for Covid-19 which can be taken as a pill rather than injected, and I hope they will be available in our markets soon,” said the minister.
Trials have shown the new medicine reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89 per cent.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 November, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly