Egypt to intensify vaccination ahead of a fourth COVID-19 wave

Vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cairo
A man receives a dose of the China's Sinopharm vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a mass immunization venue inside Cairo's International Exhibition Center in Cairo, Egypt June 5, 2021. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAIRO, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Egypt will vaccinate all 4.5 million of its state employees against COVID-19 in August and September as it seeks to accelerate vaccinations ahead of a likely fourth wave of infections, the health minister said on Monday.

The country's infection rate is still low but started to increase last week and the upward curve is expected to continue for a while, Hala Zayed told a briefing, adding that a significant increase is expected in late September.

"It is important for the Egyptian government and the political leadership that we work to intensify vaccinations in the coming period," Zayed said.

As part of the programme, all workers in pre-university education, university employees and university students - a total of more than 5 million people - will be vaccinated before the start of the academic year in October, she said.

So far, about 10 million people have registered online to get vaccinated and nearly 7.5 million have received at least one dose, Zayed said.

The prime minister said in June the government aimed to vaccinate 40% of the population of more than 100 million by the end of this year.

Egypt has received millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines produced by AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik, and Johnson & Johnson.

It has also produced 15 million doses of Sinovac's vaccine locally, Zayed said, and will receive about 5.2 million doses produced by Pfizer and Moderna in September.

The Egyptian Drug Authority on Monday approved an emergency use licence for the locally produced VACSERA-Sinovac vaccines, it said in a statement.

The country plans to have 800 vaccine centres running by the end of August, up from 657 currently.

Egypt has recorded 286,352 COVID-19 infections as of Sunday, including 16,674 deaths. However, officials and experts say the real number of infections is far higher but is not reflected in government figures because of low coronavirus testing rates and the exclusion of private test results.

The first COVID-19 infection from the Delta variant was discovered in Egypt in mid-July, Zayed said, adding that it concerned a 35-year-old woman who did not need hospitalization.

Other cases were discovered later among Egyptians but none were hospitalized because they had mild symptoms, she added.

Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Giles Elgood

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