Morocco approves AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine- Minister

Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco’s health ministry on Wednesday approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University for emergency use, Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb said.

Morocco had announced it plans to launch a free vaccination campaign targeting 25 million people, or 80% of its population.

The country has ordered 66 million doses from AstraZeneca and China’s Sinopharm but has not yet received any, Ait Taleb told state 2M TV channel.

The deal with Sinopharm includes technology transfer and the setting up of a production plant in Morocco, he said.

The vaccination campaign would last three months at least in order to achieve population immunity, Ait Taleb said.

On Dec. 23, Morocco imposed a nationwide three-week curfew from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am and ordered restaurants to shutdown in the hard-hit cities of Agadir, Casablanca, Marrakech and Tangier in an effort to control the latest outbreak.

On Wednesday, the country said it has recorded a total of 447,081 coronavirus infections including 7,000 deaths and 20,719 active cases.

The Moroccan economy is expected to have contracted by 7.2% in 2020 according to the International Monetary Fund, while the government said its 2020 fiscal deficit would surge to 7.5% due to the virus.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Lincoln Feast