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Morocco prepares for an ambitious COVID-19 vaccination program, aiming to vaccinate 80 percent of its adults in an operation starting this month that is initially based on a Chinese vaccine It has not yet completed advanced testing to prove it is safe and effective.

The first injections could arrive in a few days, a Health Ministry official told The Associated Press. Before a public skeptical about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, medical experts and health officials have appeared on television in recent weeks to promote COVID-19 vaccines and encourage Moroccans to get vaccinated.

While Britain began its vaccination program on Tuesday with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the United States and the European Union are competing to approve a series of vaccines made in the West, other governments are looking to use vaccines from China and Russia.

The World Health Organization has said that new vaccines must first be tested in tens of thousands of people to show that they work and cause no worrisome side effects before they are widely implemented. But the UN health agency also says it is up to each country to decide whether there is an urgent national need to use a vaccine, even without such data.

Morocco is battling a resurgence in virus infections, with the number of deaths recorded from the virus exceeding 6000. The North African kingdom has hopes for two candidate vaccines, one developed by China’s Sinopharm and the other by the University from Oxford and AstraZeneca from Great Britain.

The Sinopharm vaccine It has been approved for emergency use in some countries and the company is still conducting late-stage clinical trials in 10 countries. The AstraZeneca vaccine is still in advanced trials in countries such as Great Britain and the United States and has not yet been approved.
Rabat, Morocco
People pass by a bivouac where clinical trials for covid-19 vaccines are taking place, in Rabat, Morocco, on December 7, 2020. (AP)

Morocco’s government seeks to vaccinate 80 percent of its adults, or 25 million people, as soon as the vaccines are approved by national regulators. Priority will be given to medical personnel and other front-line workers, as well as the elderly.

It will start with the Sinopharm vaccine, which was tested in 600 Moroccans as part of clinical trials this fall. Morocco has ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine.

Initial deliveries will come from China, but Morocco also plans to produce the vaccine locally, Abdelhakim Yahyan, a senior health ministry official, told the state news agency MAP.

Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb said Morocco is seeking vaccines from various sources because COVID vaccines are a rare commodity and the production capacity of a single manufacturer is too limited to meet the needs of everyone.

In the Moroccan trial of the Sinopharm vaccine, carried out in Casablanca and the capital, Rabat, from August to November, healthy volunteers received two separate doses of the vaccine. In the advanced trial, volunteers received the vaccine or a placebo. According to the Minister of Health, the first results have shown that the vaccine is “safe and effective” and no serious side effects have been reported.

However, some Moroccans have taken to social media to question the safety of the vaccine, with some pointing out that China was the original epicenter of the pandemic or questioning how effective it will be.

Sinopharm’s vaccine is based on proven technology, which uses a killed virus to deliver the vaccine, similar to how polio immunizations are done. Major Western competitors, such as the vaccine made by Oxford and AstraZeneca, use newer and less-proven technology to target the coronavirus spike protein.

A staff member holds a sample of a possible COVID-19 vaccine at a SinoPharm production facility in Beijing. (Associated Press)

In China, Sinopharm’s state subsidiary CNBG has administered the vaccine to 350,000 people outside of its clinical trials, a senior CNBG executive said.

Critics in Morocco have also expressed concern that citizens may be forced to get vaccinated, but the Health Minister insisted that COVID-19 vaccines will not be mandatory, but free.

Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani has tried to reassure people who doubt the vaccine about the robustness of the country’s regulatory process for approval of the vaccine, saying no corners have been cut to ensure the drug is safe. to manage.

Morocco’s mass immunization operation will include 2,888 vaccination stations and the deployment of mobile units to vaccinate people in factories, offices, campuses and prisons. The Health Ministry said it would mobilize more than 12,000 health professionals, as well as the military, to ensure rapid distribution.

The vaccine will be available in a first phase for those who are at higher risk of contracting the virus: health professionals, security personnel, essential workers in vital sectors and people suffering from chronic diseases.

No exact date has been set for the launch, but the Health Minister said “we are doing everything possible to get it started in mid-December.”

Furthermore, Morocco is expected to be among 92 low- and middle-income countries supported by Covax, an international effort to ensure vaccine supplies reach developing countries, if the group meets its funding targets, according to the World Health Organization.

– Reported with Associated Press


www.9news.com.au

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