Amnesty International: Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Egypt is “haphazard and flawed”

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Amnesty International criticized the Egyptian governmental handling of Covid-19 vaccine rollout failing to prioritize the most at-risk and marginalized people, including low income people in informal urban settlements and remote rural areas along with refugees and prisoners. 

“Egypt’s vaccine rollout has been blighted by the authorities’ lack of clear strategy and transparency leading to delays and backlog, as well as failure to reach out to those most in need or to tackle vaccine hesitancy through targeted awareness campaigns,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International. “We call on the government to ensure that priority groups are, in fact, prioritized, and that the distribution plan is inclusive, accessible and non-discriminatory.”

Amnesty international outlined the preferential treatment given to parliamentarians and their families without belonging to the officially most prioritized groups. Furthermore, the government targeted tourism workers by establishing vaccination centers in hotels across touristic areas, while essential workers at high risk, including transportation and food workers, were not outreached. Amnesty pointed out that the lack of a national information campaign about access to vaccines, with hardly any billboard or radio or TV ads, doubled the lack of public awareness regarding both access to the vaccine and vaccine hesitancy, and led to the exclusion of socio-economically marginalized groups.

The organizations urged the Egyptian authorities to publish their vaccine allocation plans and to consult with civil society, including the Doctors’ syndicate, to integrate human rights standards, ensuring prioritization of high-risk and marginalized groups. “The Egyptian authorities have a responsibility to ensure that the country’s lifesaving vaccine programme is rolled out fairly through the entire population: from those in urban informal settlements to those in hard-to-reach rural areas, those at liberty to those in detention, to Egyptian nationals as well as refugees and migrants,” said Philip Luther.

Although Egyptian officials confirmed that a vaccination campaign inside prisons began on 17 May, human rights lawyers complained the ministries of interior and health for failing to vaccinate several political detainees, one of them was  69-year-old detainee Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an eminent opponent politician who demanded the public prosecutor to allow him to get Covid-19 vaccine given his age and pre-existing health conditions with no response till now. On 24 June, the Egyptian health minister reported that 4 million people received the first dose.