CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt on Thursday expanded its coronavirus vaccination rollout to include the elderly and people with chronic diseases after several weeks of vaccinating medical staff, the cabinet said.
Nearly 153,000 people have applied for vaccinations since Sunday when the North African country opened online registration, the cabinet said in a statement.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with more than 100 million, has prepared 40 vaccination centres and plans to increase that number after the arrival of more vaccine batches, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said.
Egypt received 350,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in two batches since December, in addition to 50,000 doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in February.
It is hoping to receive vaccines through the COVAX facility, a global initiative aimed at providing equitable distribution of vaccines, in the coming weeks.
On Feb. 24, the Egyptian Drug Authority approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use. Egypt’s Prime Speed Medical Services said it had obtained the right to provide Sputnik V in Egypt in a statement to the stock exchange, without giving details.
Egypt began vaccinating frontline medical staff against COVID-19 on Jan. 24 using the Chinese vaccine.
Those getting the Sinopharm jab have a second dose after 21 days while those who receive the AstraZeneca vaccine wait 12 weeks for the second dose, said Health Minister Hala Zayed.
As of Wednesday, Egypt had confirmed 184,168 coronavirus cases, including 10,822 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.
However, health officials say the real number is likely far higher due to a relatively low rate of coronavirus testing and the exclusion of private test results.
(Reporting by Mohmed Zaki and Moamen Said Attallah; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean)