ISMAILIA, (Egypt): Egypt began its Covid-19 immunisation program Sunday, becoming one of the first countries in Africa to vaccinate its citizens, with a doctor and a nurse receiving the Chinese-made Sinopharm jab.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with over 100 million people, received its first batch of the vaccine in December.
The inoculation will be available to all health workers for free, Health Minister Hala Zayed said Sunday.
“All healthcare workers will receive it for free, it’s their right,” Zayed told a press conference at Abu Khalifa Hospital in the northeastern city of Ismailia.
She also paid tribute to over 330 doctors in Egypt who have died from the virus.
Dozens of other medics at the hospital were also vaccinated Sunday.
“It was a simple jab,” Mahmud Zaki, one of the doctors, told Al-Watan newspaper.
Over 35 medical centres will be set up nationwide in the coming weeks to administer the vaccine, the health ministry has announced, with citizens urged to register online.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Saturday that the inoculation drive would begin “with healthcare workers followed by those suffering from chronic diseases and later the elderly”. Zayed said citizens “who have the means should pay for the vaccine” in the coming months.
Egypt has officially registered over 160,000 novel coronavirus infections, including nearly 9,000 deaths.
Health officials have warned that low testing rates mean the real number could be at least 10 times higher.
Zayed said Sunday that the North African country was also working on producing a vaccine locally, with a view to distributing it to the rest of the continent, without providing details on which vaccine.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Africa was “in danger of being left behind as countries in other regions strike bilateral deals, driving up prices”. “I am reassuring the Egyptian people they will receive the vaccine, but I reiterate the vaccine is not a substitute for staying vigilant in terms of health precautions, including wearing masks,” the minister said.