Egypt speeds up Sinovac production with eye on African market

New vaccine plants also aim to protect domestic population from fourth Covid wave

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Egypt is increasing production of Sinovac's coronavirus vaccine as it aims to become a centre for exports to Africa and protect the Egyptian population of more than 100 million from a fourth wave of infections.

The government is preparing new plants that it says could produce several million vaccine doses a day, and is also in talks with an unidentified European vaccine maker.

"We are currently in discussions with other companies because it is important to us that we diversify our sources, and hopefully soon we will announce our partnership with a European company," said Dr Heba Wali, president of the state-run Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines.

Dr Wali said one million doses of the Vacsera-Sinovac vaccine had already been distributed within Egypt.

In recent months, Egypt has received shipments of vaccines made by Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson.

Almost 7.5 million people in Egypt had received at least one dose of a vaccine, Health Minister Hala Zayed said last week as she announced a push to accelerate inoculations.

A fourth wave of infections is expected to peak in late September after a lull, Ms Zayed said.

Egypt's 1 billion vaccine-shot ambition

A new Vacsera plant outside Cairo aims to begin production in November and have a capacity of 1 billion vaccines a year.

"We aim to not only be self-sufficient regarding the vaccine, but we hope to export it to our brothers in African countries and the entire region," Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Monday.

Dr Wali said that Egypt's Chinese partners had overseen the local production lines, and she dismissed doubts about the Sinovac shot's effectiveness, highlighting its approval by the World Health Organisation.

"However, with the appearance of new strains of the virus, companies always study their vaccines and their effectiveness with these new strains," she said.

"And if any company confirms that it is ineffective, they will (further) develop their vaccine."

Egypt reported 263 new cases on Tuesday, bringing its total to 288,162, including 16,727 deaths.

Officials and experts say the real number is far higher but not reflected in government figures because of low testing rates and the exclusion of private laboratory results.

Updated: August 31st 2021, 10:16 PM