Egypt approves Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use

Cairo says it has signed deals to locally produce millions of doses of the vaccine

A worshiper has his temperature checked as he arrives to attend a Palm Sunday mass after using an app to book his attendance. Reuters
A worshiper has his temperature checked as he arrives to attend a Palm Sunday mass after using an app to book his attendance. Reuters

Egypt's drug authority said on Monday it had granted approval to China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

Egypt has so far approved and received shipments of the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines.

Health Minister Hala Zayed this week said that Egypt had signed agreements to manufacture the Chinese vaccine Sinovac locally, with 40 million doses to be produced this year. She did not say when production would begin.

Cairo has also approved Russia's Sputnik vaccine.

Egypt is suffering a new wave of Covid-19 cases with lax adherence to government advice to wear masks and socially distance. The government is keen to avoid another lockdown because of the damaging impact on livelihoods and the economy.

But the country has a long way to go to vaccinate all 100 million people. Awad Tag El Din, the president’s adviser for health affairs, told a local news channel on Friday that about half a million people in Egypt had been vaccinated so far.

On Sunday, the government released an image of President Abdel Fatah El Sisi, 66, getting his vaccine.

Also at the weekend, Orthodox Christians across Egypt celebrated Palm Sunday, a day which commemorates Christ’s arrival to the city of Jerusalem, amid coronavirus restrictions for the second year in a row.

Worshippers attended Mass, lit candles and carried palm fronds while children enjoyed making accessories from palm leaves.

While faithful were allowed to attend mass this time around, attendances were limited and many among the congregation at the Church of Saint Barbara wore masks.

Cases have been steadily rising in recent weeks. There were 953 new Covid-19 infections recorded on Monday bringing the seven-day rolling average to 884. In February, the seven-day average cases were about 500.

There were also 51 deaths on Monday with a seven-day average death toll of 44.

World Health Organisation expects to decide whether to give emergency approval for a vaccine made by China’s Sinopharm by the end of this week and the Sinovac Biotech vaccine by the end of next week.

China has already introduced millions of doses of both vaccines at home and has exported them to many countries, particularly in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

An emergency listing from the WHO is an indication to national regulators of a shot's safety and efficacy, and would allow the Chinese vaccines to be included in Covax, the global programme to provide vaccines mainly in poor countries.

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If approved, the Chinese vaccines would be the first from a non-western country to gain approval from the global health body. So far, the WHO has given emergency approval to vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

It is also expected to review Moderna's shot this week.

There are questions around the effectiveness of Sinovac as a Brazil study found it to be only 50.04 per cent effective at stopping Covid-19 – just above the WHO advised 50 per cent minimum. It measured 78 per cent effective at stopping “mild-to-severe" Covid-19 cases – seen as key to keeping people out of hospitals.

In early April, China’s top disease control official Gao Fu said current vaccines offer low protection against the coronavirus but that mixing them is among strategies being considered to boost their effectiveness.

“We will solve the issue that current vaccines don’t have very high protection rates,” Mr Gao said.

Updated: April 27, 2021 08:44 AM

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