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The New Arab Staff

Which countries in the Middle East will get the Covid-19 vaccine?

Pfizer says the vaccine is 90 percent effective [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 November, 2020

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Israel, Qatar and Kuwait are among the nations that have reserved doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Pfizer and BioNTech announced this week that their jointly developed vaccine was 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials.

The news has raised hopes that countries across the world will soon be able to immunise their citizens against the novel coronavirus and perhaps put an end to widespread restrictions on movement.

Pfizer has said it will be able to produce up to 50 million doses by the end of the year - and as many as 1.3 billion in 2021.

At least a billion doses have already been reserved, most of them by high-income countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan.

That leaves only a relatively small number of vaccine doses available before 2022.

So where in the Middle East could have access to the promising Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine?

Qatar

Qatar was the first country in the Middle East to announce it will receive a shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as soon as by the end of the year. 

"Pfizer and BioNTech... are confident that if their vaccine gets the necessary regulatory approval Qatar will be able to receive an initial quantity of vaccines by the end of this year or very early in 2021," said Dr Abtullatif al-Khal, head of the Gulf nation's National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19.

Last month, Qatar said it had signed a deal with drug producer Moderna to buy its coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is approved.

Kuwait

The only other Gulf nation to have signed a deal to acquire the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so far is Kuwait.

Kuwait has reserved a million doses of the vaccine to arrive in batches, with a first batch of 150,000 doses reserved for healthcare workers, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.

Lebanon

Lebanon will "be one of the first countries to benefit from the Pfizer vaccine", caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan said on Tuesday.

The country is also a participant in the Covax scheme established by the World Health Organisation (WHO), public-private health partnership GAVI and the CEPI foundation.

Covax aims to ensure participating nations are supplied with enough vaccines to immunise 20 percent of their population.

High-income nations are participating int he scheme in case commercial deals with companies like Pfizer and Moderna fall through; for low-income nations, however, Covax may be the only chance at securing a vaccine.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is not currently included in the Covax programme, however.

Israel

On Friday, Israel signed a deal with Pfizer securing 8 million doses of the potential vaccine.

The vaccine is likely to be a two-dose treatment, meaning that amount would cover 4 million of the country's nine million population.

"The goal is for the vaccine supply to start in January and increase in the months thereafter," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Egypt

Neighbouring Egypt has reserved enough of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to innoculate 20 percent of its needs, Health Minister Hala Zayed said on Tuesday.

Another 30 percent will be covered by a potential vaccine being produced by the University of Oxford, Zayed added. The potential Oxford vaccine is also included in the Covax scheme.

Jordan

Jordan has also pre-ordered two million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Health Minister Dr Saad Jaber said this week.

Iraq

Meanwhile, Iraq has said it will import the vaccine if it gains approval by the WHO.

Read more: Death or jail: Egypt's medics battle Covid-19 and state persecution

Other countries in the region have signed deals to import potential vaccines from different producers.

Emirati company Group 42 has been involved in testing a Chinese-produced vaccine in the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan. Morocco is also involved in testing the Sinopharm vaccine.

It hopes to manufacture the potential vaccine next year.

Turkey, meanwhile, has expressed interest in producing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, the Russian health ministry said this week.

At least five potential vaccines have been tested in Turkey, including the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

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