Tuesday, 23 March 2021

We could make Sinovac + tourism workers at the head of the line

We could soon be making China’s Sinovac vaccine here at home as Egypt is expected to reach an agreement with the Chinese vaccine maker as early as this month, Zayed said at yesterday’s press conference, Al Hayah Al Youm’s Mohamed Sherdy noted (watch, runtime: 3:31). The minister announced last December that negotiations over a license are ongoing and that Egypt has already established a production line for the vaccine at state-owned vaccine maker Vacsera. We’re also getting closer to an Egyptian covid jab, with clinical trials for a local vaccine named Covi Vax due to start soon.

Sinovac ≠ Sinopharm. The Sinovac jab has pros and cons. It’s a two-dose vaccine that is easily stored in a normal refrigerator, but its efficacy rate lags Sinopharm. Sinovac said last month that phase three trials in Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia, and Chile wound it had a nearly 51% efficacy rate in preventing all cases of covid-19, prevented 84% of cases that would have required medical treatment and 100% of “hospitalized, severe, and fatal cases.” Sinopharm, used here and in the UAE, among other countries, has an overall efficacy rate of 79%.

Meanwhile, Egypt is set to buy an undisclosed quantity of the Sinopharm jab, Zayed added, after taking receipt of the second 300k-dose gift shipment of the vaccine from China earlier this week. We’re still waiting for some 5 mn doses of AstraZeneca out of an 8.6 mn dose order. The shipment, already delayed as AstraZeneca faces production challenges, should be here by month’s end.

The WHO could lend us a hand for our vaccine manufacturing plans by sending medical delegations and experts to Egypt to participate in the production of jabs that we will then export to African countries, WHO’s Egypt head of mission Naeema Al Gasseer said yesterday during a meeting with Zayed, according to a ministry statement.

All tourism workers in Sinai and the Red Sea are expected to be vaccinated by the end of May after the Health Ministry decided to add them to the same priority level in the country’s vaccination program as the elderly and chronically ill, Minister Hala Zayed told El Hekaya’s Amr Adib over the weekend. The ministry is also planning to have the entirety of Egypt’s medical staff inoculated by the end of next week, Zayed said (watch, runtime: 6:18).

Would-be Hajj goers this year are also getting a share of Egypt’s vaccine stock, Zayed said at a presser yesterday. The Tourism Ministry is in wait-and-see mode for Saudi Arabia’s conditions on the pilgrimage, and is taking into account that the kingdom may not allow those who received the Sinopharm jab to enter the country since it has yet to receive WHO approval, Deputy Antiquities and Tourism Minister Ghada Shalaby told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 6:41).

Some 30k individuals in Egypt have so far been vaccinated against covid out of a total of 488k whose registrations on the Health Ministry’s online portal were approved, Alaa Eid, who heads the ministry’s preventive healthcare department, said, according to Youm7. That means the ministry has inoculated around 4.5k in two days: As of Sunday morning, a total of 25,500 individuals had received a jab.

As many as 250k individuals could be called to ger their jab this week alone, Zayed had said on Saturday. By our math, that would require 44k jabs per day — a 19x increase in the ministry’s current pace. The ministry is setting up 5k medical units and 400 hospitals to administer the vaccines, Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary noted.

By the end of 2021, Egypt could have inoculated 20% of its population if everything goes according to the ministry’s schedule, health economics professor Islam Annan told El Hosary (watch, runtime: 12:31).

The Health Ministry reported 643 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down slightly from 647 the day before. The ministry also reported 39 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 11,637. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 196,061 confirmed cases of covid-19.

Europe’s third wave: Déjà vu with a twist. More than a dozen European countries are entering Lockdown 3.0 while the continent struggles to kick its vaccination program into high gear, CNBC reports. And Europe isn’t alone: Countries around the world are seeing a significant uptick in covid-19 cases, snapping a six-week streak of declines, partly due to the spread of more infectious variants of the virus, the Associated Press reports, citing a top WHO official. The uptick appears to have everything to do with variants and comparatively little to do with people getting pandemic fatigue and relaxing precautions, the Economist said, as we noted yesterday.

Global supply chains are at risk of further disruptions thanks to unvaccinated sailors on board shipping vessels. Some countries, most notably China, are imposing vaccination requirements at their borders despite over half of the world’s 1.7 mn sailors coming from developing countries where vaccines won’t be widely available before 2024, according to the Financial Times. This mismatch in vaccine policies and availability threaten to result in “chaos” as sailors are barred from disembarking, and are left stranded at sea.

South Africa is selling off some of its unused AstraZeneca vaccines to other African countries after a small-scale trial showed the jab is largely ineffective against its domestic covid-19 variant, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the country’s health ministry.

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