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Thursday, 22 April 2021

Minapharm to manufacture Sputnik V in Egypt

Minapharm will manufacture in Egypt some 40 mn doses per year of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine under an agreement with Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF, the company said in a statement. The two sides are due to start the transfer of technology immediately, with an eye to rolling out the vaccines in 3Q2021, Minapharm said.

The jabs will be produced in Minapharm’s biotech facility in Cairo and will be earmarked for “global distribution,” the company added, noting that the 40-mn-dose production mark can potentially be exceeded in the future.

It’s unclear how much of the output, if any, will be sold in Egypt. The word “global” would suggest Egypt is included and the jab is already approved for use here. Health Minister Hala Zayed said after a meeting with Russian Ambassador Georgiy Borisenko this week that surplus doses of Sputnik V vaccines manufactured by Egyptian companies domestically could potentially be exported into Africa, but also said they’ll be used to help meet domestic demand.

We asked Minapharm to confirm whether the jab would be distributed here at home, but a company official said that only CEO Wafik Bardissi could comment and that he was unable to come to the phone.

Russia says Sputnik V has a 97.6% effectiveness rate, basing its findings on an analysis of transmission among Russian recipients, according to the Minapharm statement. This is over 5 percentage points higher than a 91.6% rate that had earlier been reported during the vaccine’s Phase 3 clinical trials. By contrast, China’s Sinovac — which Egypt could also begin manufacturing at state-owned Vacsera’s facilities — has an efficacy rate of 50.4%, although it claims to prevent 100% of serious cases that would have resulted in hospitalization and death.

NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON: Egypt lags other frontier and emerging markets when it comes to the vaccine rollout, with an average of only 28 doses administered daily per 1 mn people, EFG Hermes said in a note to clients out today. Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam also all have fewer than 100 daily doses per 1 mn people, consistent with a general trend that “higher income countries have made more progress in terms of [per capita] vaccine rollouts,” EFG’s Simon Kitchen and Farah Hamza wrote. The note covers 26 frontier emerging markets on EFG’s radar across the Middle East, Africa, South America, South Asia and Central Asia, and parts of Europe.

Among those countries, the UAE (by far) maintains the highest vaccination rate, having administered 9.9 mn doses to a population of c. 10 mn and moving at a rate of 8.3k doses a day per 1 mn people. Other high-income countries including most GCC countries are also ahead, while Morocco is doing surprisingly well given it’s a “relatively low-income” country, EFG said.

MEANWHILE, the US has officially put Egypt and 115 other countries on its ‘Level 4: Do Not Travel’ list after reports this week that Washington would extend the list to include around 80% of countries at risk of covid-19.

That doesn’t mean that US citizens will be prohibited from coming to Egypt, but rather the US State Department uses the categorization to advise people on what countries or territories are safe and how much caution should be heeded.

All this comes as Egypt’s vaccination program has been slowly gathering pace in recent months, with the government set to get its hands on 4.5 mn doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca jab by the end of May after having secured at least 1.6 mn doses of different types of vaccines for its 100 mn-strong population since December.

Other covid headlines worth noting this afternoon:

  • The EU is set to take legal action against AstraZeneca, after the company failed to meet delivery targets of 120 mn jabs and undermined inoculation efforts, Bloomberg reports.
  • Italy, Greece, and France are loosening restrictions internally in the coming weeks as vaccine rollouts slow down the pace of contagion, reports Bloomberg.

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