As the third wave of COVID-19 hits Egypt it has the lowest vaccination rates worldwide

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The countries of the world are racing against time to obtain the largest possible amount of corona vaccines to vaccinate their citizens to counter the wide spread of the virus. It has become almost certain that there is no cure for COVID-19, and there is no hope of getting out of the dark tunnel that humanity entered a year ago except through the vaccination of the largest possible amount of the population which will pave the way for a gradual return of life to its previous state and kickstart the global economy.

According to WHO, vaccines are the ideal way to defeat the pandemic, as the higher the vaccination rate in society, the more immune people will be, which brings it closer to recovery. The acquiring of collective immunity through the vaccine is the most successful way to eliminate the virus.

At the local level, there is escalation of the talk about entering the third wave of the pandemic in Egypt, and the emergence of a new strain of the virus that can spread rapidly. The number of recipients of the vaccine has reached 240,000, only 0.2 per cent of the total population of more than 100 million people according to official statistics, until 15 April. The US has completed the vaccination of 183 million of 300 million people, which is more than 53 per cent of the population. Also, the UK completed the vaccination of 60 per cent of its population, 39 million citizens.

In comparison to Arab countries in the Middle East region in particular it is clear that the number of vaccine recipients in Egypt is much less than its neighbours, as the Saudi Ministry of Health announced that the total number of the recipients of the vaccine exceeded 6.6 million, 19 per cent of its population.

Also, the UAE has exceeded 10 million doses, according to the latest statement of the UAE Ministry of Health and Community Protection. According to the statistics of Ourworldindata, which is run by the University of Oxford, the UAE rank comes second at the global level in the rate of vaccine distribution, and first in the Arab world. The standard ranking of the website is based on a comparison of doses given per 100 people in each country. In Morocco the number of vaccinations reached 4.5 million doses, 12 per cent of the population. Jordan also reached a half a million doses or five per cent of the total population.

Last March, according to a report published by Covidvax.Live website, which specialises in the statistics and recording of vaccinations, Egypt needs more than 1,000 years to complete the vaccination of 70 per cent of its citizens, whose number exceeds 102 million people, if it continues on the vaccination rate of an average of 220 vaccinations per day. In this regard, if we compare Egypt with some other countries, the number shows that the UAE needs only 68 days to complete the vaccinations of its citizens, Qatar 239 days, Saudi Arabia 380 days, and Turkey 593 days. African countries will be first, as Ghana needs 1,111 days, Senegal 1,950 days, and Rwanda 1,999 days.

Considering the current situation, it has improved but it remains tainted with caution due to its very slow rate. According to the latest decision of the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population vaccination centres will be increased by adding 200 centres, as Egypt currently has 339 vaccination centres to receive the corona vaccine across the country after it had only 40 centres at the beginning. 

According to the statements of the Egyptian Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed, the maximum daily work capacity for each centre is 100 people which is the most optimistic number, given a statement early this month by Dr. Mohamed Abdel Fattah, deputy of the Ministry of Health for Preventive Affairs, who stated that the capacity of one centre is 50 to 75 people per day.

The current daily capacity absorbs a maximum of 33,900 doses, which means that Egypt needs 3,000 days to vaccinate 50 million citizens, about half of the population. Also based on the Ministry of Health statistics, the number of registered people on the ministry’s website to obtain the vaccine has reached 1.2 million citizens, while the actual number is much less than the 240,000 citizens who have been vaccinated.

According to the official figures, Egypt has received 850,000 doses of the British vaccine AstraZeneca, in addition to 680,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm. Based on these numbers and according to the COVAX agreement for vaccine distribution, it is assumed that the total number in May should reach 4.5 million doses which far exceeds the numbers of people who have received the vaccine so far, or even those who have been registered for it.

Unfair distribution

The crisis is not only in the low percentages and in numbers of vaccine recipients, but also extended to the vaccine distribution map and the segments of vaccinated recipients. Except for the Ministry of Health’s decision to give priority to doctors in government hospitals, the rest of the segments that Minister Hala Zayed talked about in previous statements which have priority are the elderly, people with chronic diseases, and citizens registered in the Takaful and Karama programme, a government support programme for people who are struggling financially.

However, this is not actually happening. For example, many elderly people who registered at the beginning of the availability of registration on the website have not yet received the vaccination, while at the same time young citizens got vaccinated one or two days after registration.

In late March the Egyptian government welcomed the priority of MPs in receiving the vaccine, excluding them from waiting lists, which was already done during April. The government claimed that each MP represents thousands of citizens who meet them, as stated in a statement by the Speaker of Parliament Hanafi Al-Jabali, who in turn congratulated the parliamentarians for receiving the vaccine and thanked the government for providing it to them. But this expectation was not limited to the MPs only, it included all of their family members as well. Ignoring the community segments announced by the Ministry of Health, age and people with chronic diseases.

An endless medical crisis and international warnings of travelling to Egypt

The CDC, the pioneering American institution in the industry of public health and the greatest scientific association in the field of infectious diseases and infection control, issued alerts a few days ago regarding the health of travellers. CDC warned against travelling to Egypt due to the high level of the spread of the coronavirus, even for those who completed the vaccine, for fear of infection and the spread of new strains. The number of cases and deaths from coronavirus in Egypt has increased steadily in recent weeks.

Egypt is suffering from many crises in the health sector due to the shortage of oxygen cylinders, and the lack of intensive care beds and medical services available to COVID-19 patients in public hospitals, which caused the death of many of patients. On April 16 there were 14 deaths in Sohag Governorate in Upper Egypt during one Ramadan day only, due to the lack of services and capabilities necessary to deal with the third wave of the pandemic. However, two days ago, the Ministry of Health denied the news being circulated about the epidemiological situation in Sohag and confirmed the availability of all medical services for corona patients which sparked widespread outrage.

The official statements and releases issued by the ministry continued to cause controversy. It reached its peak in recent days when Hala Zayed stated during a press conference that, “The number of doctors who died as a result of their work in public hospitals is only 115 doctors since the pandemic began.” She explained that the claim of the death of 500 doctors – referring to the Doctors Syndicate – is not true, claiming that the infection does not come from hospitals only, but also from society. She added that compensation and pensions will soon begin to be paid to the families of doctors who died at work.

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate denounced the statements in an official statement, where it wondered: “What about the rest of the doctors in the rest of the university, private and emergency hospitals who receive thousands of patients who are likely to be infected with the coronavirus? And what about the obstetricians and gynecologist doctors who are helping women with corona give birth? Doctors with this specialisation have recorded the highest death rate in the list of martyrs.” The syndicate added that the number of doctor deaths during the current month of April was only 61. This means that the number of doctors’ deaths has doubled over the past months. It stressed that it monitors the number of all deaths so that it can support their families.

The former deputy of the Medical Syndicate, Dr. Mona Mina, rejected the minister’s statements, and asked: “Are these provocative statements just a slip of the tongue from the minister? Or an unsuccessful attempt to justify the weak protection of medical teams? Or an attempt to obscure the terrible spread of the epidemic? Or is it an introduction to preventing pension and work injury compensation for the martyrs of male and female doctors who were not working in quarantine hospitals?” Mina did not rule out that the statements may come to reveal the ministry’s intention to further abuse doctors, searching for any argument to prevent the payment of legal dues to dead doctors.

The highest death rate

On Monday, the ministry of health recorded 991 new cases and 58 deaths. This makes the total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic until today 223 cases and 13,107 deaths, including 484 doctors according to the latest data from the Egyptian Medical Syndicate.

It should be mentioned that Egypt occupies the highest death rate in the world that exceeded 7.5 per cent, according to the official numbers issued by the Ministry of Health and Population, whose minister said earlier that the figures announced through it are 10 times less than the real numbers.