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Covid-19: Egypt to become first Middle East country to produce Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

Minapharm will produce 40 million doses of the Sputnik V jab intended for global distribution, as the country faces a new spike in cases
Like AstraZeneca and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which have been linked to rare blood clotting, the Sputnik jab uses adapted strains of the adenovirus that causes the common cold (AFP)

Egyptian firm Minapharm will become the first company in the Middle East and North Africa to produce Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine as the country faces a new spike in cases during Ramadan.

According to a joint statement by the company and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) on Thursday, Minapharm said it would be producing 40 million doses of the vaccine.

Those produced will become the first Sputnik V vaccines due for "global distribution" later this year.  

The country has so far only vaccinated 0.1 percent of its population, according to the health ministry, while cases are surging, following a warning by authorities last month that a third wave of the virus was imminent.

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate said on Thursday that 50 doctors have died of the virus in the past two weeks alone. The total number of doctors officially known to have died of Covid-19 in Egypt is 466.

Egypt has already made plans to produce and purchase Chinese vaccines and agreed to buy 20 million doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine, with a shipment of 500,000 due later this month. 

Egyptian state firm Vacsera is also preparing to produce 80 million doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.  

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country with over 100 million inhabitants, has recorded nearly 219,000 positive Covid-19 cases, including more than 12,000 deaths as of Thursday. 

The real death toll from the virus is likely to be much higher than the official figures, with many victims of the disease dying at home, and many deaths not registered as caused by Covid-19.

Concerns over blood clots 

Like AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which have been linked to rare blood clotting, the Sputnik jab uses adapted strains of the adenovirus that causes the common cold. 

But Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed the Sputnik vaccine, said this month that there was no risk of blood clots in the jab. 

"The Russian vaccine is highly efficient and trusted by regulators around the world and makes a huge contribution in the fight against coronavirus," RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev said in a statement.

Last year, the vaccine faced criticism for fast-tracking, but a leading medical journal said this year that the Sputnik V is safe and highly effective, and the German government has just confirmed that it would like to buy up to 30 million doses of it.