Anyone over the age of 18 can now register for a Covid-19 jab, Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population said on Wednesday.
Since the end of February, only citizens over the age of 40 and those living with chronic illnesses have been able to register for vaccines through the ministry’s dedicated online registration platform, which was launched after the arrival of 300,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
Appoximately 20,000 citizens are currently registering to receive inoculations each day, according to a Cabinet vaccine update.
While registration has opened for everyone, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses will receive their shots first and then everyone else afterwards on a first-come, first-served basis.
Citizens will be notified via text message when it is their turn to receive their shot.
But while there is strong demand for the vaccine, Egypt has been administering only 1,000 to 2,000 shots per day due to limited supply.
Daily inoculations are expected to increase with the arrival of an additional 350,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, set to land in Egypt on Thursday, according to state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.
Health officials are also awaiting the arrival of a five million-dose batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The expected shipment is the first batch of 8.6 million doses of the vaccine that are being supplied to Egypt through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Last month, Egypt approved emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and expects to receive the first shipment soon.
While healthcare workers can receive the vaccine free of charge, everyone else has to pay EGP200 ($12) for two doses. The fee, a substantial sum for Egypt’s impoverished families, has been criticised by human rights activists.
Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer, in late January filed a lawsuit demanding that the Egyptian government administer vaccinations for all Egyptians free of charge. On February 13, the court adjourned the case until March 27.
Many young people in Egypt are keen to receive a vaccine after months of stagnant social lives and movement restrictions.
"I will definitely be getting vaccinated. I want to go out again without my stress reaching peak levels every time. But what really surprises me is how many of my friends are adamantly refusing to get vaccinated," Haidy Ashraf, a communications student at the American University in Cairo, told The National.
There is, however, some mistrust of the health's ministry's frequent reassurances that the vaccines are safe, particularly among the nation’s younger citizens, who are more likely to be exposed to alternative news sources because of their use of social media.
“I am definitely not getting vaccinated. I don’t want to ease my stress now and then develop some weird side effects in two years' time. I know everyone says it’s safe, but I am reading a lot of stuff online that is making me uneasy,” said Farida Mohamed, a 22-year-old journalism student at Cairo University.
In late February, health ministry representative Nader Saad said during a televised phone-in that all Egypt’s foreign residents, including refugees and diplomats, will be given equal priority to register for a shot.
Vaccinations are under way at 40 centres nationwide.