Covid-19 Vaccination in Middle East

Since the first cases of coronavirus were detected early last year, pharmaceutical companies have competed with unprecedented speed to develop a safe and effective vaccine to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In total, there are now more than 230 vaccine candidates, according to the World Health Organization, using an array of different techniques to trigger antibodies and virus-fighting cells to fend off infection.

Several vaccines have already been approved for use or are seeking approval, and vaccinations are being rolled out in many countries. The UK was the first country that started vaccination and Denmark is the country that have administered the most vaccine doses to date while France is among the slowest countries in Europe. So far (Jan 22, 2021), more than 56.7 million doses in 52 countries have been administered, according to data collected by Bloomberg. The latest rate was roughly 2.85 million doses a day, on average.

Vaccinations in the US began Dec. 14, 2020, with health-care workers, and so far 18.4 million shots have been given, according to a state-by-state tally by Bloomberg and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In china 15 million doses vaccine have been given and in the UK another country that has started widespread vaccination, 7.3 million doses vaccine have been given.

Many Middle East and Arabic-speaking countries have also begun vaccination against Covid-19. Two Arab nations have become the first countries to approve a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, a significant boost for China’s plans to roll out its vaccines worldwide. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) approved a vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned Sinopharm on 9 December 2020 and Bahrain followed days later. The UAE health ministry approved Pfizer and BioTech vaccine and last week approved Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

So far, in United Arab Emirates, 2.2 million doses vaccine is administrated that means 21 doses given per 100 people. On 4 December, Bahrain became the second country after Britain to grant emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Bahrain administrated 144 thousand doses that means 9.7 doses given per 100 people.

Turkey is another country in the region that started vast vaccination against Covid. In Turkey 1.1 million doses have been given. On 25 November 2020, Turkey signed a contract to buy 50 million doses of a vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

Saudi Arabia began inoculating people in the kingdom with a COVID-19 vaccine on December 17, becoming the first Arab country to roll out the Pfizer-BioNTech jab. So far 296 thousand doses have been given that means 0.87 doses given per 100 people. In Oman, 30 thousand doses of vaccine has been given and started coronavirus vaccinations on December 27, 2020.

Kuwait received 150,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 23, Prime Minister Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah received the first jab to mark the beginning of the immunization. Qatar started on December 23 the first phase of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Iraq has struggled badly to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Around 612,092 cases and 12,984 deaths have been officially recorded.

Iraq’s National Medicine Selection authority gave emergency approval for the use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. The Minister of Health Hasan Al-Tamimi has said earlier that the country will receive the vaccines soon along with special equipment needed to store it. Iraq has signed a preliminary deal to receive 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in early 2021.

Iran, the Middle Eastern country hardest hit by the pandemic with over 50,000 recorded deaths, suggested that four Iranian companies were developing vaccines. On 3 December 2020, the country hit 1 million Covid-19 cases. Iran’s Minister of Health Saeed Namaki said that the country will start vaccination before February 10. Regarding the Iranian-made COVID-19 vaccine, he said that the first clinical test of the vaccine will be conducted next week in the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute.

He also said that another research is being done by Cuba and Iran’s Pasteur Institute which is going through its second clinical phase in Cuba and its third phase will be done in Tehran, hoping that the jointly-produced vaccine will be used in mid-spring.

Algeria, had begun negotiations with several international companies developing the vaccine. Jordan has ordered one million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech novel coronavirus vaccine, with the first shipment expected at the end of January or early February, the health minister said Monday. Lebanon has finalised a deal with Pfizer for 2.1 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine amid surge in infections that has overwhelmed the country’s health care system. The doses are to arrive in Lebanon starting early February, according to Lebanon’s health ministry.

Lebanon has so far recorded 272,46158 infections and some 2,208 deaths. Libya has contracts to purchase 2.7 million doses of the vaccine through COVAX.  With a population of six million, the vaccine will only cover a third of Libyans. China’s Sinopharm, as well as Oxford/AstraZeneca, will provide the vaccines in Morocco. According to the prime minister, the country is also in talks with other developers.

In October, Qatar signed an agreement with Moderna to buy its vaccine as soon as it is approved and released for global use. In the same month, Doha signed an agreement with Pfizer to receive an undisclosed amount of vaccinations.

Sources: Ourworldindata, WHO, nytimes, bloomberg

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