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Sunday, 21 March 2021

One step closer to an Egyptian covid jab

Clinical trials could start soon on Egypt’s first locally developed covid-19 vaccine after the jab got regulatory approval, Masaa DMC’s Ahmed Fayek said on Thursday (watch, runtime: 11:11). The vaccine — named Covi Vax — has already undergone lab and animal testing and is now moving onto the next step in the process, but will not be complete or available for at least six months, Fayek noted.

What we know about it so far: The two-dose jab will use inactive virus — the same technology used in standard vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, as well as the Sinopharm covid-19 vaccine. Peer reviews of the vaccine indicate that it produces antibodies three weeks after administration, which remain active for 13 weeks, and was effective in preventing severe illness in the animals that were tested, and is 100% effective in preventing death.

It is unclear where the vaccines will be manufactured, but Health Minister Hala Zayed had said back in December that state-owned vaccine maker Vacsera had set up a production line to manufacture the Sinopharm jab here at home.

Speaking of Sinopharm: Our second gift shipment of 300k doses of the Chinese vaccine landed in Egypt in the early hours of Saturday, the Health Ministry said. The shipment brings the total number of Sinopharm doses Egypt has taken receipt of to 650k, including the first batch of 50k jabs we purchased in December and another 300k-dose batch Beijing gifted to us in February. We should have a total of 3 mn doses of the Sinopharm jab by the end of May, head of the Health Ministry’s preventive medicine department Alaa Eid told Hadith Al Kahera yesterday (watch, runtime: 13:28).

More vaccine shipments on the way, but the timeline is unclear: We should be getting another 1.5 mn vaccine doses by 30 March, followed by another 5.5 mn-dose shipment at the end of the first week of April, he said. Eid did not specify which vaccine he was referring to, but Zayed recently said that we should be taking receipt of the first 5 mn doses of an 8.6 mn shot order of AstraZeneca by March 30, which we’ve placed through the Gavi / Covax initiative.

As many as 250k people are eligible to be vaccinated in Egypt this week alone, Zayed said in a statement yesterday. Anyone living in Egypt who is 18 or older is now eligible and can register for the jab through the ministry’s website. The ministry has so far inoculated 25,500 individuals, Eid said.

The ministry could set up more vaccination centers to help speed up the process of administering jabs for everyone who has registered and alleviate some of the bottlenecks in the process, advisor to the minister Noha Assem told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 14:22). Assem noted that part of the reason for the slow pace in vaccinating eligible individuals is incomplete data in the registration process.

Lamees called on the government to allow the private sector to import vaccines to help make the jabs more readily available for those who are willing to pay, pointing out that several companies want to inoculate their employees and that opening up this space would take some of the pressure off the Health Ministry (watch, runtime: 2:55).

The Health Ministry reported 644 new covid-19 infections yesterday, on par with 645 the day before. The ministry also reported 45 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 11,557. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 194,127 confirmed cases of covid-19.

European governments are set to resume the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after Europe’s pharma regulator on Thursday said the shot is “safe and effective” and not responsible for increasing the risk of blood clots, the BBC reports. Germany, France, Italy and Spain will all allow distribution to resume after last week suspending use of the vaccine after several batches were linked to blood clotting.

Egypt said it has no intention to halt the vaccine after receiving in January the first 50k doses of the 20 mn jabs the British firm will supply to Egypt (aside from the 40 mn we’re receiving from Gavi / Covax), the Wall Street Journal noted.

Meanwhile, Western “vaccine nationalism” is doing the world no favors:

US export controls are putting global vaccine production at risk, two of India’s biggest manufacturers have warned, the Financial Times reports. And the UK + EU are engaging in some post-Brexit vaccine-rattling: The EU has threatened to cut off exports of covid-19 vaccines to the UK amid delays in AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries that are causing what EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen described as the “crisis of the century,” Reuters reports. Europe is aiming to vaccinate 70% of its adults by the end of summer, but has so far inoculated less than 10%, falling behind the US and UK as a third wave of the virus gathers pace.

But the US is looking to share the stock of vaccines it hasn’t approved for domestic use, saying on Thursday it will send 4 mn of its 7 mn-dose stockpile of AstraZeneca jabs to Mexico and Canada, according to a White House press briefing.

Pfizer wants to jack up the price of its jab when the emergency of the pandemic abates, Business Insider reports. Company execs told the Barclays Global Healthcare Conference last week that it is “increasingly likely” that governments will have to undertake mass vaccination every year but that there is “a significant opportunity” to raise prices when the virus shifts to an endemic state. People may also need a third jab to ensure immunity against new variants of the virus, they said.

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