COVID-19: Morocco receives 2 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses

On Friday, Morocco received 2 million doses of Astrazeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first African country to receive a shipment large enough to carry out a national immunization program.

The consignment arrived on a Royal Air Maroc flight from India, which this week started exporting the vaccine, produced jointly with Oxford University, to mid- and lower-income countries.

To date, the vast majority of the development of the three most commonly recognized COVID vaccines, including the drug Astrazeneca, has been accelerated by developing nations.

This week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described as a “catastrophic moral failure” the unequal access poor countries had to COVID-19 vaccines.

Rabat has placed orders for 65 million doses, comprising 25 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is run by both the Serum Institute of India (SII) and R-Pharm of Russia, and the rest by Sinopharm of China.

Morocco is preparing a free vaccination program targeting 25 million people, beginning with health workers, or 80 percent of its population. It had recorded 463,706 coronavirus infections by Friday, including 8,076 fatalities.

While Egypt received 50,000 vaccine doses from its near ally the United Arab Emirates in December, no African country has so far received adequate supply to initiate mass inoculations.

On Wednesday, India, the largest vaccine producer in the world, started exporting the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to neighboring Asian countries. On Friday, the SII also intended to ship doses to Brazil, Reuters reports.

The AstraZeneca vaccine requires two doses, but it does not require ultra-cold storage, unlike some other vaccines, making it easier to deploy in hot countries and remote locations.

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