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Sunday, 31 January 2021

Second wave ebbing + vaccine rollout gathering a bit of steam

Egypt will receive its first shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine today, a top Health Ministry agency said yesterday. The announcement came a few days after Health Minister Hala Zayed said the British company would deliver 50k doses in February. AstraZeneca has agreed to supply Egypt with 20 mn doses of the vaccine, which is enough to inoculate 10 mn people.

The vaccine hasn’t been approved for emergency use, but the minister said last week that the regulator would soon give the go-ahead. The Sinovac jab is also set to be registered and approved in Egypt soon, Presidential Health Advisor Mohamed Awad Tag Al-Din confirmed to Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 3:06). Sinovac’s jab has proven around 50% effective in trials carried out in Brazil.

Another shipment of China’s Sinopharm vaccine is also expected to arrive in the coming days, Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed told Amr Adib on Friday (watch, runtime: 1:02). Egypt kicked off its vaccination program last week with the Sinopharm jab, which was approved by regulators late last year. Sinopharm will send Egypt 40 mn doses of the vaccine, which has been found to be 79-86% effective against the virus in studies.

And some of our allocation from Covax should be coming in March: Covax, the vaccine-sharing platform led by the Gavi vaccine alliance and the World Health Organization, expects to have distributed 25 mn doses to the Eastern Mediterranean region in March, and 355 mn by the end of the year, Reuters reports, citing WHO official Yvan Hutin. The first shipment will arrive in February, he said. Covax is an alliance that aims to ensure equitable access to covid vaccines worldwide, with the aim of delivering 1.8 bn doses to poorer countries in 2021.

But dial back those expectations: Those 25 mn doses will be shared between the 22 countries in the WHO’s EastMed region. We’ll ultimately be getting some 40 mn doses through Covax.

Downside risk #1: The EU has placed temporary export controls on covid vaccines manufactured inside its borders after facing supply issues and delivery shortfalls with AstraZeneca and Pfizer. US-based Moderna is also facing production challenges.

Potential silver lining: Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has proven 66% effective in a major global trial — but 85% effective against severe disease, a development that together with it being a single jab and easily stored has raised hopes among many epidemiologists. Even J&J’s competitors are optimistic, with a top scientist who worked on Modern’s jab calling it a “darn good tool” and urging “Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good enough.”

Downside risk #2: Covavax is only 49.4% effective against the South African variant while J&J’s efficacy fell from 72% to 57% in South Africa as global concern about mutant strains continues to rise.

Reason #9,238 you should get vaccinated when your turn comes: Imagine the whole world has to get vaccinated again … and again … and again because we all allow some mutants to spin out of control. The awesome Dr. Ashish Jha has the rundown in this thread.

WE’VE PASSED THE PEAK of the second wave, presidential health advisor Mohamed Awad Tag Eldin told DMC on Wednesday (watch, runtime: 13:36), citing a decrease in infections since the start of the year. Daily new infections have dropped 58% year-to-date and dropped 11% week-on-week as of yesterday.

The Health Ministry reported 547 new daily cases yesterday, down from 587 the day before, bringing the total tally of infections to 165,418. The daily death toll, which tends to lag two weeks behind the infection rate, is yet to fall substantially. Another 48 people lost their lives due to the virus on Friday, followed by 46 yesterday, taking the total number of deaths to 9,263.

AMONG THE DEAD: Famed hairstylist Mohamed Al Sagheer died of covid-19 on Friday at the age of 84, son-in-law Ahmed El Sakka confirmed on social media. Al Sagheer is generally credited with having created the template for the “modern” salon industry in Egypt.

COVID ABROAD-

TRAVEL WARNING- Travelers and commuters in the US will now be required to wear face masks on nearly all forms of public transport, the CDC ordered Friday. Folks heading to Canada will soon need to be tested on arrival and wait at a government-approved hotel — at a cost of around CAD 2k — for their test results before being allowed to move on to their final destination and finish out their 14-day quarantine.

Israel closed its crossings with Egypt and Jordan on Thursday as part of a bid to curb the covid outbreak, Israeli media reported Wednesday. They are expected to remain closed until at least today. This comes as the government considers lengthening the country’s national lockdown and keeping its airport closed to prevent the entry of new variants of the virus.

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