Egypt launched its vaccination campaign against the new coronavirus on Sunday, by administering two doses of the vaccine from the Chinese group Sinopharm to a doctor and a nurse in a hospital in Ismailia in the east of the country.
“Egypt is the first country in (mainland) Africa to have received the vaccine and (…) started a vaccination campaign,” Health Minister Hala Zayed said at a press conference at the Abou Khalifa hospital in Ismailia, one of the first to have received coronavirus patients in the country.
Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world with some 100 million inhabitants, received its first batches of Sinopharm vaccine in December. According to the Chinese laboratory, this vaccine is 79% effective.
“All medical teams will receive the vaccine for free, it is their right,” added Ms. Zayed, after paying tribute to the some 330 doctors who died from Covid-19.
After health personnel, the priority will be the vaccination of “people with chronic diseases and then (of) the elderly”, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi said on Saturday.
However, the minister, who herself participated in clinical trials in 2020, said Sunday that “those who have the financial means will pay” to get the vaccine.
Egypt has signed contracts with “three English, Chinese and Russian companies”, securing 100 million doses, part of which is awaiting delivery, she said.
Aspiring to become the continent’s leading supplier, Cairo “will sign contracts for the local manufacture” of vaccines with international companies in the coming weeks, she added.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization warned that the African continent risked being “left out” in the vaccine race with rich countries.
Egypt has officially registered more than 160,000 cases of Covid-19, including nearly 9,000 deaths.
But officials in the health sector estimate that due to the low number of tests, the actual figure of contamination could be at least ten times higher.
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