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Published in Ahram Online on 17 - 11 - 2020

For the second week in a row the world received good news on the Covid-19 vaccine. On Monday, US company Moderna announced it has developed a Covid-19 vaccine with an efficiency rate in excess of 94 per cent. The news arrived hot on the heels of last week's announcement by Pfizer that its vaccine had been shown to provide 90 per cent protection in trails. While neither vaccine has received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yet Moderna expects to produce 20 million doses, reserved for the US, by the end of this year, and Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech plan to have 50 million doses ready for global distribution.
Egypt will acquire vaccines through GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. Though no vaccine providing 100 per cent protection against the virus has been developed so far, the vaccines have been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms in cases that do develop. The vaccines are thought to be effective from three to 12 months.
Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed stressed that vaccines being developed by Russia, the UK, China and the US are still undergoing clinical trials, and none of them have been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The trails, though, have reached an advanced stage in many countries and the results are promising.
Zayed said the government has already reserved doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and a second vaccine being developed by Oxford University, in quantities that will cover up to 30 per cent of Egypt's needs.
“As soon as a vaccine obtains WHO approval it will be available in the market immediately. Priority will be given to frontline health workers, the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases,” said Zayed.
Health Ministry Spokesman Khaled Megahed expects 1.3 billion doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be available in 2021.
According to Megahed, the government is aiming to import 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough for 20 million people given an individual needs two doses administered three weeks apart.
“None of the vaccines which are currently at an advanced stage of clinical trials provide full protection against the virus, meaning that precautionary measures such as wearing face masks, washing hands and avoiding crowded places remain essential,” said Megahed.
Sherine Helmi, chairman of Pharco Pharmaceutical Company, revealed that Pharco is preparing to manufacture the Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V in Egypt by April 2021.
A survey released this week by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) showed 73 per cent of respondents were willing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, said a press release announcing the survey's results. Conducted in October by YouGov, a leading UK research data and analytics group, the survey covered 12,000 respondents in 11 countries. In Egypt 68 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to take the vaccine.
Initially, says Helmi, the Russian vaccine will be imported and packaged in Egypt. In the second phase, though, following the transfer of the necessary technology, Pharco will produce the vaccine in its own factories, making Egypt a vaccine manufacturing hub for the whole of Africa.
“The final price of Covid-19 vaccines is expected to range between $20 and $80 depending on the vaccine's efficiency,” said Helmi. When Egypt starts manufacturing the Covid-19 vaccine domestically the price is likely to fall to around $11 a dose.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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