Despite loans and donations there is a crisis in funding the COVID-19 vaccination in Egypt

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Despite more than $16 billion worth of loans to confront the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and enforced deductions from salaries and pensions, the Egyptian government has decided that COVID-19 vaccines will not be given to citizens for free. The minister of health announced that the COVID-19 vaccination will be free only for medical teams, while the entire population will have to register on a digital system if they cannot afford the price of the vaccine, which she estimated at EGP 100.

Egyptian officials explained that the state does not have enough money to buy sufficient stocks of the vaccine. MP Ayman Aboul Ola confirmed that the budget allocated to the ministry of health cannot afford the cost of mass vaccination. “The current budget for health can hardly cover the basic requirements of the hospitals to combat the high demand due to COVID-19 cases,” he added.

The current health budget is approximately EGP 93 billion for the year 2020/2021, with an EGP 20 billion increase compared to the previous year. However, the budget of the ministry of health is still, despite the recent increase, below the constitutional provision of three per cent of the governmental budget for the health sector.

According to Mohamed Magdy Morshed, a former member of the health committee in the parliament, the health budget of the current year included a total of EGP 4 billion for the extra spending for the COVID-19 crisis. This allocation does not include any portion for purchasing the vaccine because the budget was approved in 2020 before the manufacture of current vaccines was announced.

A high-profile official said that “funding the vaccination is still under discussion inside the cabinet,” and added, “There are different ideas about the proper ways for funding it.” He indicated that one of the ways could be the Tahia Masr (Long Live Egypt) Fund, which has already campaigned for donating to pay the price of vaccines for the poor. The fund announced collecting EGP 160 million donations from businessmen. Moreover, Hesham Talaat Moustafa, the well-known tycoon, announced that he will donate the cost of 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for the poor. The government is thinking of making private corporations provide the vaccine to their employees.

The government depends on the Takaful wa Karama programme of social protection. The programme presents financial transactions for poor families managed by the ministry of social solidarity, which is to provide the database to the ministry of health. The people registered on the Takaful wa Karama, estimated by the minister of social solidarity Neveen Qabbaj to be about 15 million citizens, will receive the vaccination for free. According to the Central Apparatus for Public Mobilisation and Statistics, more than 30 million citizens live below the poverty line in Egypt. This means that about 15 million poor citizens will have to pay the price of the vaccine, which they cannot afford.