Does Egypt plan to produce a coronavirus vaccine?

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“An Egyptian vaccine against coronavirus will appear soon.” With these words, the Egyptian Ministry of Health announced an upcoming vaccine amid an expected third wave of the virus striking the country.

The Egyptian vaccine, “Covi Vax,” is being sought by a research team affiliated with the National Research Centre, and it is still in the pre-clinical phase. Doctor Mohamed Ali, consultant gastroenterologist, says, “The vaccine is at an early stage so that it can be judged and needs a period ranging from three to eight months.” Since February 2020, there have been persistent attempts by the Centre for Scientific Excellence for Viruses of the National Research Centre and the Ministry of Higher Education to produce a home-made vaccine. Ali pointed out that the vaccine had achieved positive results in the pre-clinical stage of animal studies, and was reported on in the medical journal, Vaccines, which specialises in following up on vaccine news and monitors the results.

According to the published scientific research on the vaccine, it is taken in two doses. It produces antibodies from the third week of receiving it, and it continues for another 10 weeks. Its action mechanism depends on stimulating the immune system to produce resistant bodies through injection through the “kill virus” technology. A dead sample of the virus is used, and other materials added to the vaccine enhance the immune response by forming antibodies, similar to the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.

On the effectiveness of the Egyptian vaccine, Mazen Khairallah, an infectious diseases consultant, explained that the scientific methodology to determine the efficacy of corona vaccines or not is based on in-depth studies of the virus, its genetic sequence, and ways to inactivate it. It is then passed through three stages of clinical trials to test efficacy on thousands of volunteers. During each stage, the vaccine results and its safety are studied on a more significant number of volunteers than the previous step to ensure the effectiveness and the absence of side effects. That confirms the need for some time until the vaccine is approved, which makes it premature to speak about the vaccine’s effectiveness or otherwise.

A timing crisis appears here, as the Egyptian vaccine in this way will not be available quickly, which raises questions about the mechanism for providing vaccinations against the virus in light of the shortage of available vaccines. Although Egypt has adopted some vaccines, the number of doses is limited compared to Egypt’s population, which exceeds 100 million people. Egypt approved three vaccines for local use, including the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm and the AstraZeneca-Oxford, in addition to the Russian vaccine Sputnik-V, which has not yet arrived in Egypt despite being approved by the Medicine Authority.

The Egyptian Health Ministry announced that it had vaccinated roughly 30,000 citizens of the eligible groups, which observers consider a limited number. But they attribute this to unjustified fear of side effects. They describe it as minimal and limited. The precautionary measures should be adhered to until vaccines are provided, and vaccination is obtained among all Egyptians, which may be available at the end of this year. Currently, vaccines are available for doctors, the elderly, and those with chronic diseases.

Although the price of the Egyptian vaccine has not yet been determined, because it has not been released on the market yet, press statements by the head of the research team for the production of the Egyptian vaccine, Mohamed Ahmed, confirmed that it would be cheaper than the Chinese vaccine, especially as it is exempt from customs or taxes, in contrast to the Chinese vaccine. However, Doctor Mona Mina, the former Undersecretary of the Medical Syndicate, criticised the principle of pricing for the provision of vaccines in Egypt, stressing that the vaccine must be provided free of charge if available in the local market to ensure its comprehensive coverage for all citizens, similar to the rest of the world, and following the provisions of the Egyptian constitution.

Mina pointed out that the principle of vaccine pricing is rejected because, in principle, one per cent of the net salaries and 0.5 per cent of the pension is deducted for everyone under the clause of corona support issued by the Council of Ministers. EGP 100 billion has been allocated to confront the pandemic.