Morocco to receive 2 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses on Friday

RABAT, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Morocco expects to receive 2 million doses of Astrazeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, two health ministry officials said, which will enable the country to start rolling out a nationwide programme of immunisation.

The shipment of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University is the first significant COVID-19 vaccine supply to any African country.

Reuters reported on Thursday that India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, would send doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine to Morocco and Brazil on Friday.

The AstraZeneca vaccine requires two doses, but unlike some other vaccines it does not need ultra-cold storage, making it easier to roll out in hot countries and remote locations.

This week World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the unequal access poor countries had to COVID-19 vaccines as a “catastrophic moral failure”.

Although Egypt received 50,000 doses in December from its close ally the United Arab Emirates, no African country has received enough supply to start rolling out mass vaccination.

Morocco took part in China’s Sinopharm vaccination trials last year.

Rabat has said it has placed orders for 65 million doses of vaccine, including 25 million of the AstraZeneca vaccine, for which it has deals with both Serum and Russia’s R-Pharm. The remaining orders are with China’s Sinopharm.

Morocco plans a free vaccination campaign targeting 25 million people or 80% of its population, starting with health workers, security services, teachers and the vulnerable.

By Friday, Morocco had reported 463,706 coronavirus infections since the outbreak of the pandemic, including 8,076 deaths and 16,329 active cases. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Susan Fenton)