Egypt ramps up local vaccine production with eye on exports
Egypt is ramping up production of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine as it aims to become a hub for vaccine exports to Africa and protect its own population of more than 100 million from a fourth wave of infections.
The government is preparing new facilities that it says could produce several million vaccine doses daily, and is also in talks with an unspecified European vaccine producer.
"We are currently in discussions with other companies because it is important to us that we diversify our sources, and hopefully soon we will announce our partnership with a European company," said Dr Heba Wali, president of the state-run Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA).
Wali, speaking at VACSERA's headquarters, said one million doses of the VACSERA-Sinovac jab had already been distributed within Egypt.
In recent months, Egypt has also received shipments of vaccines made by Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson.
Nearly 7.5 million people in Egypt had received at least one dose of a vaccine, Health Minister Hala Zayed said last week as she announced a push to accelerate jabs.
A fourth wave of COVID-19 infections is expected to peak in late September after a lull in infections, according to Zayed.
A new VACSERA facility outside Cairo aims to begin production in November and have a capacity of 1 billion vaccines per year.
"We aim to not only be self-sufficient regarding the vaccine, but we hope to export it to our brothers in African countries and the entire region," Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said in a statement on Monday.
Wali said that Egypt's Chinese partners had overseen the local production lines, and she dismissed doubts about the Sinovac shot's efficacy, citing its approval by the World Health Organization.
"However, with the appearance of new strains of the virus, companies always study their vaccines and their effectiveness with these new strains, and if any company confirms that it is ineffective, they will (further) develop their vaccine."
On Tuesday, Egypt reported 263 new cases, bringing its total to 288,162, including 16,727 deaths. Officials and experts say the real number is far higher but not reflected in government figures because of low testing rates and the exclusion of private lab results.