Rabat, Dec.8, (BNA): Morocco is gearing up for an ambitious COVID-19 vaccination program, aiming to vaccinate 80% of its adults in an operation starting this month that’s relying initially on a Chinese vaccine.
On Tuesday, King Mohammed VI instructed the government to make the vaccine free, according to a Royal Palace statement.
The first injections could come within days, a Health Ministry official told The Associated Press.
While Britain began its vaccination program Tuesday with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the U.S. and European Union are racing to approve a series of Western-made vaccines, other governments are looking to use vaccines from China and Russia.
The World Health Organization has said new vaccines should first be tested in tens of thousands of people to prove they work and don’t cause worrisome side effects before being rolled out broadly. But the U.N. health agency also says it is up to individual countries to decide whether there is an urgent domestic need to use a vaccine shot, even without such data.
Morocco is battling a resurgence in virus infections, with the number of recorded deaths from the virus surpassing 6,000. The North African kingdom is pinning its hopes on two vaccine candidates, one developed by China’s Sinopharm and the other by Britain’s Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
Morocco’s government seeks to vaccinate 80% of its adults, or 25 million people, as soon as the vaccines are approved by domestic regulators. Priority will go to medical staff and other front-line workers, as well as the elderly.
It will start with the Sinopharm vaccine, which was tested on 600 Moroccans as part of clinical trials this autumn. Morocco has ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine.
The initial deliveries will come from China, but Morocco also plans to produce the vaccine locally, Abdelhakim Yahyan, a senior official at the Ministry of Health, told the state-owned news agency MAP.
Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb said Morocco is seeking vaccines from several sources because COVID vaccines are a scarce commodity and a single manufacturer’s production capacity is too limited to meet the needs of the whole world.