Mena nations expand vaccine campaigns

15 November 2021
More Middle Eastern governments have agreed to provide booster shots in recent weeks

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 14,815,082 on 15 November, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 17 per cent (2,525,985) of all regional cases, while Iran’s 6,037,718 infections make up 41 per cent of the 14.8-million tally.

Since 7 November, 110,712 new cases have been reported in the 17 Mena countries tracked by MEED.

Syria’s rate of weekly new cases was 4.72 per cent on 15 November compared to 2.42 per cent on 7 November, indicating that cases are surging in the war-torn country.

In Egypt, the weekly rate has also grown from 1.68 per cent last week to 2.19 per cent on 15 November.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s Food & Drug Authority has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 5-11 years. More than 46 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to date in the kingdom, with more than 70 per cent of the population receiving both doses of a vaccine.

Bahrain has suspended the use of the ‘red list’ restricting travel from high-risk countries. The red list included 16 countries from which travel was barred except for citizens and residents, who were required to quarantine. Manama has also dropped the requirement for unvaccinated travellers to quarantine in licensed areas and will allow people to isolate at home.

The country’s National Health Regulatory Authority has also approved the emergency use of the Covaxin jab developed by India’s Bharat Biotech.

Booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are being administered to high-risk individuals who have completed a two-dose schedule of the vaccine at least eight months ago. This stipulation includes individuals aged 65 years and older, frontline and healthcare workers aged 50 years and older, and people aged over 18 who suffer from chronic health conditions.

Also eligible for a second dose are immunocompromised individuals aged over 12, cancer treatment recipients, HIV positive people, individuals on immunosuppressive drug treatments and bone or organ transplant recipients, local media reported.

The public health ministry said individuals who received the second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine six months ago are eligible for a booster shot, regardless of their age.

The locally made Coviran Barekat vaccine has been licensed to start clinical trials on children aged between 12 and 18. Trials will begin on 60 volunteers in the first phase. If the tests prove successful, then children aged 6 to 12 years will also be invited for trials, local media cited Minoo Mohraz, a member of Iran’s Covid-19 committee, as saying.

Egypt will run clinical trials on the locally developed Covivax jab, with early tests to begin with tens of people. The pool will eventually number in the thousands. The trials come as Egypt has started to administer vaccines inside subway stations to vaccinate large groups of people. Mobile clinics are also planned to be installed in malls.

The World Health Organisation partnered with Iraq’s health ministry to launch a mass vaccination campaign in Kurdistan last week. The campaign is expected to cover over 12 million people and continue until 31 December.

Jordan has lowered the age limit to receive a booster dose, with individuals aged 18 years and above now eligible for the third shot provided their two-dose programme was completed six months ago. Only individuals aged 65 years and above or those with immunity risks were previously allowed to receive booster shots.

The health ministry has recommended vaccine types are not changed during the booster stage unless the first two doses caused complications.

Morocco will conduct rapid PCR tests at its ports as Covid-19 cases surge in Europe, in addition to continuing its existing requirement of a negative PCR test taken 48 hours prior to departure. Passengers travelling to Morocco must also show proof of vaccination.

China has donated 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Syria after sending 1.3 million doses of Sinovac to Damascus during the prior week. The latest batch comprised Sinopharm vaccines, according to media reports, and raised the total number of Sinopharm doses sent to Syria from China to 800,000.

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