Egypt’s Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed announced, early on Thursday, that the country has received 854,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The cargo is the first batch to arrive in Egypt under the COVAX agreement, in cooperation with the International Alliance for Serums and Vaccines (GAVI), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
According to the Ministry of Health and Population plan, the first segments of the population to receive the vaccine will be healthcare workers, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases. The targeting of these segments of society is aimed at helping protect them from the risk of contracting the virus.
Egypt is scheduled to receive a total of 40 million doses of the vaccine as part of the agreement, to help combat the virus.
Zayed highlighted the importance of cooperation with international partner organisations in addressing the global health crisis, noting that obtaining vaccines contributes to completing the vaccination process for citizens.
For his part, Dr Mohamed Hassani, Assistant Minister of Health for Public Health Initiatives, said that the AstraZeneca vaccine has obtained emergency approval from the WHO and the Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA).
He also said that the vaccine has a proven 76% effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, and offers 100% protection from moderate and severe cases.
Hassani added that Egypt is one of the first African countries to receive the doses, pointing out that successive shipments will be received in the coming period. This will contribute to expanding the range of vaccinations and controlling the pandemic in the country.
He further added that Egypt had received two shipments from China, which included 600,000 doses of the latter’s Sinopharm vaccine, in addition to two shipments of the same vaccine from the UAE, reaching 80,000 doses.
Sir Geoffrey Adams, UK Ambassador to Egypt, said, “I am delighted to see that the first shipment under the COVAX vaccine scheme has now arrived in Egypt. Since the beginning of this crisis, the UK has been committed to ensuring equitable vaccine distribution among all countries, protecting those most at need.”
He added, “The UK has pledged £1.3bn of aid to end the COVID-19 pandemic as quickly as possible, and we have put over £548m into the COVAX AMC scheme.”
Adams also said that the doses delivered to Egypt are a great first step, but that the momentum needs to remain.
He added that the UK is pledging £1.65bn to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, over the next five years, ensuring fair and equitable vaccine access for all.
Dr Naeema Al Gasseer, WHO Representative in Egypt, said, “The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility is a historic step of solidarity for humanity during the unprecedented time that we are passing through.”
“This is an important step to ensure the equitable global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, bringing hopes to many, including people in Egypt, through escalating the vaccination of people at risk especially the front-line healthcare and essential services providers,” Al Gasseer added, “We are collectively working to halt the pandemic as individuals, families , communities, and public and private institutions, through continuing the application of effective preventive public health and social measures, such as sanitation, avoiding crowdedness especially in closed areas, keeping physical distance and wearing masks until most of the people are vaccinated.”
Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative in Egypt, said, “I would like to highlight the importance for healthcare workers to receive the vaccines, as they are at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus.”
“It is a race against time to end the pandemic and vaccinate people, and in this race, it is critical that as many safe and effective vaccines as possible are available for the health workers,” he added.
Cyrill Nunn, Germany’s Ambassador Egypt, expanded by saying, “Global challenges can only be tackled on an international level, the pandemic does not stop at borders.”
“The delivery of the vaccines is the tangible result of a great ongoing international effort and Germany is very proud to be part of it,” he added, “ACT-A and COVAX are our multilateral and inclusive answer to the pandemic, as no country can be safe as long as others are not.”
Christian Berger, Head of the European Union Delegation to Egypt, added, “The EU launched its ‘Team Europe’ initiative, together with the EU Member States and European Financial Institutions, to support partner countries in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences.”
He said that the ‘Team Europe’ package has reached almost €38.5bn, with the EU committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, anywhere in the world.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe, and COVAX is the best vehicle for delivering on international vaccine solidarity,” he said, “Team Europe has contributed over €2.2bn, including €1bn from the EU budget, for the COVAX Facility to help secure 1.3 billion doses of vaccination.”
Berger said that this comes in addition to national contributions by EU Member States, with one in three vaccines delivered by COVAX has been possible through Team Europe support.
“Since March 2020, the Team Europe approach provided the framework for a coordinated COVID-19 response in Egypt,” Berger added, “We have mobilised €1.8bn in grants, loans and guarantees to help mitigate the impact of the outbreak in response to the immediate health crisis and the resulting socio-economic and sanitary needs.”
For his part, US Ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen said, “The US is donating $4bn to support COVAX’s vital work, and as part of this, we are excited to see them deliver the first of millions of vaccines to Egypt.”
COVAX is co-led by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others.