Registration to receive coronavirus vaccination in Egypt will begin next week for the elderly and chronic disease sufferers, Health Minister Hala Zayed said on Tuesday.
Addressing a news conference, she said the vaccine will be administered from 40 locations across the country’s 27 provinces. The number of centres will gradually increase, she added.
Egypt began its vaccination program on January 24, but only for frontline medical workers dealing with Covid-19 patients.
On Tuesday, Ms Zayed said registration to receive the vaccine will be made on a ministry website that would also allow users to upload a maximum of three documents relevant to their health condition. She said those unable to access the website could register in person at the nearest hospital.
The minister, who has been the face of Egypt’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic, spoke just hours after Egypt received 300,000 doses of the vaccine Sinopharm gifted by China.
Egypt received its first batch of 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine in December and a similar number shortly after. Last month, it received 50,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses.
It expects to receive 40 million Sinopharm doses and 20 million Astra-Zeneca doses, in addition to a further 40 million doses through the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, including two large shipments expected by the end of February, according to the health ministry.
The precise number of Egyptians who have contracted or succumbed to Covid-19 is unknown, chiefly because of limited testing and because many treat themselves outside the state health sector. Others die of the disease without being diagnosed with Covid-19.
The latest health ministry figures, released on Monday night, show a total of 178,151 cases since the pandemic began a year ago. They also show a death toll of 10,353 over the same period.
However, officials and experts have said the actual number could be as many as ten times the ministry’s figures, which have been used as a reliable indicator of the pandemic’s curve.
President Abdel Fatah El Sisi has repeatedly addressed the pandemic in public comments, the latest of which suggested that adhering diligently to preventive measures like social distancing and wearing masks in public was the best defence against the virus.
Authorities last year ordered a March-July lockdown to contain the pandemic, but they have no intention of repeating those measures, arguing that another lockdown could lead to an economic meltdown, complete with a mass loss of jobs.
Pro-government commentators, meanwhile, have been saying that Egyptians appear to have learned to live with the coronavirus and claimed that the vast majority were not impatient or keen to be vaccinated.