Where Do MENA Countries Stand in Securing COVID-19 Vaccines?

The latest COVID-19 information and statistics for the Middle East and North Africa

Hadassah-University Medical Center's Prof. Yossi Karko (left) and Hannah Drori, chief of the hospital’s clinical research center, administer Brilife vaccine to a volunteer (photo credit: HADASSAH)
Hadassah-University Medical Center's Prof. Yossi Karko (left) and Hannah Drori, chief of the hospital’s clinical research center, administer Brilife vaccine to a volunteer
(photo credit: HADASSAH)
Israel could secure the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines as early as December, the Health Ministry’s director-general, Prof. Hezi Levi, said.
The Jewish state has the financial resources and political clout to be able to receive vaccine shipments when they become available, with most of the doses reportedly arriving in the first half of 2021.
But what about other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region? Do they have similar deals with the major pharmaceutical companies?
According to the UK-based NGO Global Justice Now, wealthy governments representing just 14% of the world’s population have already bought more than 80% of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine stocks for 2021 – more than 1 billion doses.
Data from Global Justice Now, which campaigns for resources for the many, shows that Moderna Inc. has sold 780 million doses, or 78% of the 1 billion doses the pharma giant says it has the capacity to produce by the end of next year, to rich countries. That represents only 12% of the global population.
Independent UN experts on Monday denounced the hoarding of vaccines by rich countries in a statement that also called for universal access to vaccines.
“There is no room for nationalism or profitability in decision-making about access to vaccines, essential tests and treatments, and all other medical goods, services and supplies that are at the heart of the right to the highest attainable standard of health for all,” the statement read.
The COVAX initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) is working to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. So far, 184 countries have signed on to the program that is being led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO. COVAX has already secured 700 million doses and $2 billion in funding. The goal is to raise $5 billion and provide 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
Here is where MENA countries stand in terms of vaccine deals:
Israel last week signed a deal with British–Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for 10 million doses of its vaccine being developed at Oxford University that has shown a 90% success rate in late-stage trials.
A week earlier, Israel inked a deal with US pharma giant Pfizer for 8 million doses that would cover 4 million out of the country’s population of 9 million because two shots per person will likely be needed. Pfizer and German partner BioNTech announced a success rate of 95% in Phase III clinical trials.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in June announced a deal with US biotech company Moderna for its vaccine, which has demonstrated a 94.5% success rate. The deal is reportedly for 2 million doses, which is enough to vaccinate 1 million people at two jabs per person.
Other MENA Countries
Qatar has signed deals with Pfizer and Moderna to receive their vaccines when approved. Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and head of infectious diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, said that if Pfizer gets regulatory approval then Qatar would start receiving vaccine shipments by the end of this year or very early 2021.
Kuwait has signed a deal with Pfizer for 1 million doses, with the first batch of around 150,000 arriving by the end of 2020, pending regulatory approval.
Lebanon’s caretaker health minister, Hamad Hassan, said on Tuesday that the country is scheduled to receive the vaccines it purchased from Pfizer in the first quarter of 2021. Lebanon is also a participant in the COVAX plan.
Egypt’s Health and Population Minister Hala Zayed said earlier this month that the country would be able to secure enough vaccines from Pfizer to inoculate 20% of the population, with the AstraZeneca vaccine meeting another 30% of the country’s needs.
Jordan has ordered 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, the health minister, Dr. Saad Jaber, said.