Egypt begins inoculation as at least 4 African nations secure Chinese vaccines; more in talks
Published: Jan 26, 2021 07:45 PM

A medical worker prepares to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Abu Khalifa Emergency Hospital in the northeastern province of Ismailia, Egypt, on Jan. 24, 2021. Egypt started on Sunday vaccinating medical staff with Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital in Ismailia, according to a vaccination program by the Egyptian Health Ministry. (Photo by Adel Eissa/Xinhua)

At least four African countries have given its citizens Chinese vaccines or secured vaccines from Chinese developers as of Tuesday, with talks on cooperation underway in more countries. Despite the challenges involved, observers noted that China is striving to help the continent fill the immunity gap rather than hoard doses. 

Egypt, one of the most populous African countries, started vaccinating its citizens, particularly high-risk groups such as medics, with Chinese developer Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines on Monday. 

The vaccines will be assigned to all doctors and frontline workers treating coronavirus patients, then to other medical workers, senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses, Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed said, according to media reports. 

If you have the opportunity to take something safe that is scientifically proven, that is a good opportunity, intensive care unit doctor Abdel Moneim Selim told media after receiving the shot.

Island country Seychelles started its inoculation drive on January 10, also using Sinopharm vaccines. 

The two are the only African countries to have rolled out mass vaccination campaigns.

Morocco has secured 10 million doses from China and Algeria has also placed orders, without releasing the specific amount. 

More African countries are discussing cooperation with China, including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, South Africa and Nigeria, according to media reports. 

It is clear that China is fulfilling its promises to make coronavirus vaccines a public good, and Chinese companies are striving to expand production to meet the demand, observers said.

Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry Association, told the Global Times on Tuesday that African countries have a mechanism of obtaining vaccines through the coordination of international organizations and other public initiatives, which has been working for decades on the continent. 

Such an initiative helps secure doses from vaccine producers and also helps raise funding, Feng explained. 

For COVID-19, the major program is COVAX, which is led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and two vaccine advocacy bodies and was launched in April 2020. China joined the initiative in October.

But even with COVAX, which has pledged to help provide vaccines to less developed countries, Africa will have to wait "weeks if not months" before receiving COVID-19 vaccines approved by the WHO, BBC reported. 

Pfizer is currently the only vaccine approved by the WHO, but it will be difficult to transport and temporarily store the mRNA vaccines, which must be kept in a -70 C environment to remain effective. 

Even if the logistics problem is solved, African countries are very disadvantaged amid hoarding from wealthy nations, observers told the Global Times.  

So far, none of the main Western vaccines has yet been administered in Africa, BBC reported.

The coronavirus fatality rate in Africa has risen to 2.5 percent, higher than the global average of 2.2 percent, while a virus variant first detected in South Africa has deeply plagued the country on the tip of the continent and its neighbors including Zimbabwe, media reported. 

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