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Sunday, 21 February 2021

Are we closing in on a supply of Sputnik V?

Is this one way Egypt will get hold of the Russian vax? Russia has offered to provide 300 mn doses of its Sputnik V vaccine to the African Union along with financing for countries that want to secure shipments, the African Union’s vaccine procurement body said in a statement on Friday. Member states will have a 12-month window to place their orders for the vaccine, starting from May from the AU’s Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), and are now able to start the pre-order process.

How many doses could Egypt lock in through the program? It’s not clear right now. We reached out to the AU for comment, but hadn’t heard back by dispatch time.

What about an earlier agreement Egypt had with Russia? An agreement that the Russian sovereign wealth fund signed with local pharma player Pharco last year was supposed to see us import some 25 mn doses of the vaccine directly from Russia. Pharco’s role in the process is uncertain, with the chairman of subsidiary Pharco B, Yasser Fayed, telling us over the weekend that its participation in distribution hinges on a Health Ministry decision.

And what about manufacturing? Pharco founder and president Sherine Helmy said last year that the company could produce the vaccine here in Egypt, but Fayed played down the likelihood of this scenario panning out, telling us that it’s too early to say if the company will manufacture Sputnik.

What is clear: The Egyptian government still wants Sputnik, which has a 91.6% effectiveness rate. Health Minister Hala Zayed said earlier this month that “large shipments” of vaccines — partly consisting of Sputnik doses — would start arriving by the second half of this month. Reports last week suggested that Moscow may struggle to keep up with demand because of its decision to outsource production to other countries.

And we have the manufacturing capacity at Vacsera, the state-owned institute that’s one of the top vaccine producers in Africa. Sputnik by itself is unlikely to be sufficient: With 100 mn people to take care of, Egypt will need to tap multiple suppliers and vaccine initiatives to lock in a sufficient supply.

KEEP IT ALL IN CONTEXT- Egypt isn’t the only nation taking more time than policymakers would like to roll out its vaccination program. Pressure is growing on the government of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, for example, as Pfizer and Moderna have missed delivery deadlines.

MEANWHILE- Finance Minister Mohamed Maait has tested positive for coronavirus, Youm7 reports, citing unnamed sources. The minister is said to be in a stable condition and is reportedly self-isolating at his home.

Egypt’s Evangelical Church is gradually resuming prayer and other religious congregational services including weddings, funerals and other activities at its churches nationwide in a statement on Friday. The Church suspended all congregational services late last year amid rising cases of covid-19.

The Health Ministry reported 600 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 610 the day before and a recent high of 656 on Friday. The ministry also reported 48 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 10,298. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 177,543 confirmed cases of covid-19.

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