Egyptian doctors’ union calls for faster vaccination of health workers

Egyptian Medical Syndicate says 50 physicians have died of the coronavirus in the last two weeks alone

An Egyptian medical worker administers a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine (Covishield) on March 4, 2021 in Cairo on the first day of vaccination in Egypt. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
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Egypt's doctors are calling on the country's health ministry to speed up vaccinations of medical staff, after 50 physicians died of the coronavirus in the last two weeks alone.

In a letter to the Ministry of Health and Population, the Egyptian Medical Syndicate said it is ready to assist in any way needed to ensure healthcare professionals are vaccinated and protected.

A total of 467 doctors in Egypt have died of Covid-19 since the outbreak began over a year ago.

The situation has become very dangerous. The actions that have been taken are not enough

"Until now, a very large percentage of doctors have not been vaccinated. We estimate only 10 to 20 per cent have been vaccinated," Dr Osama Abdel Hay, general secretary of the medical association told The National.

Less than 0.2 per cent of Egyptians have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. More than 905 million vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.

The country of 100 million people started vaccinating healthcare workers on January 24 and has since expanded eligibility to the general population aged above 18 through a government website.

Health minister Hala Zayed said at a Cabinet meeting on Monday that work was underway to increase the daily capacity of vaccine centres to 112,000 per day, but no time frame was given.

The appeal from the syndicate comes as Egypt is gripped by a third wave of Covid-19 infections. The daily count had peaked at 1,774 in June and spiked again to 1,418 on December 31. On Monday there were 852 new cases and 40 deaths.

“The situation has become very dangerous,” Dr Abdel Hay said. “The actions that have been taken are not enough.”

Egypt has recorded 217,186 coronavirus cases and 12,778 deaths, according to the health ministry. However, Egyptian health officials said the actual number could be ten-fold due to limited testing and the exclusion of private lab results.

Six doctors – including four in Sohag in Upper Egypt – died of Covid-19 on Saturday alone, Dr Abdel Hay said.

“There should be more precautions. You don’t need to close down, but there are things that can be done – social distancing, enforcing mask-wearing, limiting gatherings,” he said.

In a video posted on the medical association’s Facebook page, Dr Abdel Hay also urged doctors to take the vaccine as soon as possible and stressed that the cases of reported blood clots with AstraZeneca are very rare.

“The most important thing is that it dramatically decreases the chance of infection and if it happens, the symptoms are mild, so hospitalisation isn’t needed,” he said in the video.

Egypt has so far received over 1.5 million vaccine doses, including about 650,000 from Sinopharm and 900,000 from AstraZeneca.

Ms Zayed said last week the country expects to receive 4.5 million doses by the end of May through the Covax initiative.