Egypt’s Covid-19 vaccination lags behind most Mena countries

Country has administered about half its available vaccine supply of 72 million doses and vaccinated less than 10% of its population

People wait to receive a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at a youth centre in Cairo. EPA
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Egypt has administered a little more than half of its available Covid-19 vaccine supply as cases continue to climb amid a fourth wave.

The Ministry of Health and Population has used 38 million of the 72 million doses available, said Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, acting health minister and higher education minister.

The country of more than 104 million people has fully vaccinated about 8 per cent of its population and partly vaccinated another 8 per cent, Our World in Data reported, meaning Egypt is lagging behind most countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

For example, Iran has fully vaccinated about 40 per cent of its 85 million people. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco and Oman have all fully vaccinated more than half of their populations.

“Based on the number of doses that are available, we should have a higher percentage. It’s just a matter of distribution and administering these vaccines,” said health researcher Ayman Sabae.

Egypt is one of about 50 countries worldwide — mostly in Africa — that are not on track to meet a UN global target of vaccinating 40 per cent of their populations with at least one dose by the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s daily coronavirus cases are averaging about 900, close to the peak of its previous three waves. It has reported a total of 331,017 cases and 18,651 deaths.

Official figures probably represent only 10 per cent of actual cases, due to the exclusion of private lab results and limited testing.

Dr Mohammed Hassani, assistant minister of public health initiatives, said 20 million people have been vaccinated and the recent increase in vaccine supply will help Egypt reach its target of inoculating 40 million people by the end of this year.

On Sunday, Egypt received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine, comprising 784,280 doses, from Canada through the Covax initiative.

A day earlier, Egypt received over 3.6 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the US, also through Covax. It was the fourth and largest shipment to be delivered since September, bringing the total to 8.25 million doses.

The country now has all the major types of vaccines available, including AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer, Sputnik, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

The health ministry is expecting to receive an additional 26 million vaccine doses “in the coming period” to reach a total of 98 million, Dr Abdel Ghaffar said during a meeting with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on Sunday.

More than 1.5 million university employees have been vaccinated, he added.

The total number of vaccine centres has reached 1,079, and the ministry is expanding efforts to provide vehicles where citizens can be vaccinated in crowded places, such as malls and train and metro stations.

Despite efforts to increase capacity, Mr Sabae said there are problems with the electronic registration system and the vaccination process.

“At this very moment, there is an unmet need. People register and many don’t get the vaccine,” said Mr Sabae, chief executive of Shamseya, a healthcare solutions provider.

He suggested the Egyptian government should offer the vaccine without registration on a wide scale and intensify promotion of Covid-19 vaccination. Only youth centres, which number 243, currently provide the vaccine without prior registration.

Another issue is “people don’t know what vaccines are available at what centres,” he said.

Despite acquiring Pfizer doses, Egypt also has not yet begun to offer vaccination for children under the age of 18.

Egypt is locally manufacturing China's Sinovac through the Vacsera factory, but it is unclear whether this will be enough to bridge the supply gap.

Updated: November 01, 2021, 3:17 PM