As Covid-19 vaccines hit the shelves, travelers are counting down the days to when a return to worldwide travel freedom is given the green light. The hospitality industry is expecting a full swing back to previous levels of activity – if not more – as major outbound travel markets begin reaching herd immunity levels of mass inoculation. For travel meccas like Egypt, this is great news. Luckily, the country’s government is already engaged in an all-out effort to speed along the process of vaccinating all Egyptians and welcome tourists to the country again with open arms..
Egypt’s vaccination program began on January 27th with a shipment of China’s Sinopharm vaccine that was given to health care professionals at chest and fever hospitals, followed by elderly and chronically ill patients in the general population. This vaccine is said to be 86% effective. The first wave of vaccines will inoculate 35 million people and will follow World Health Organization targets. The government has reported it will have the capacity to store up to 140 million doses and that it would indeed be able to provide vaccines to the country’s 100 million citizens.
Gavi, a global health coalition dedicated to facilitating vaccinations among developing world populations, has agreed to provide 40 million vials to inoculate 20% of Egypt’s population, and the government itself has already purchased enough vaccines to cover an additional 10%. Although it is beginning with injections of the Sinopharm vaccine, the government is well on its way to approving all imported vaccines and will soon introduce the UK’s AstraZeneca vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine, with the latter reportedly being up to 92% effective.
The Egyptian government has already launched an online registration platform for those who are ready to be inoculated. According to Hala Zayad, Egypt’s health minister, the system is meant to “neutralize the human element in the process and ensure the system’s governance in order to increase confidence between the state and the citizen.” Expectations are high and confidence in the program is expected to climb as mass vaccinations continue to be rolled out.
Egypt’s progress mirrors that of other nations in the Middle East that began distributing a wave of vaccines early on. The United Arab Emirates in particular was quick to the game, with 4.3 million people already inoculated by the beginning of February among a population of 10 million. Saudi Arabia also began its vaccination program in mid-December and had given vaccines to 300,000 citizens by mid-January. Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain were also some of the first nations to begin their programs early in 2021.
So while efforts are continuing to ramp up globally, the news out of Egypt and the wider Middle East is already looking good. As soon as segments of the population hit hardest by the virus are inoculated, deaths and hospitalizations caused by the virus are expected to fall dramatically. And as this happens over the coming months, Egypt’s tourist-friendly people and its magnificent ancient tombs and temples will once again be ready to welcome the world to the Land of the Pharaohs.