Egypt’s Health Minister Calls for Free COVID-19 Vaccines for Developing Countries

The Health Minister Hala Zayed volunteering for the COVID-19 vaccine trial. Photo courtesy of the official Facebook Page of the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population.

In a virtual session of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt’s Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed called on the international community to make COVID-19 vaccines accessible for developing nations, Al Ahram Online reports.

The Egyptian health official proposed that the WHO provide the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to low-income countries, especially those most vulnerable to the deadly disease. Furthermore, Dr. Zayed also called on the intentional health organization to supply middle-income countries with the vaccine at affordable prices.

The Egyptian official also emphasized the importance of providing nations struggling to manage the pandemic with the necessary medical equipment and supplies, and urged all countries to participate in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.

Zayed’s comments came during the committee’s 67th session, attended by representatives from 22 Eastern Mediterranean countries.

This comes following news, earlier today, that Johnson & Johnson has paused clinical trials for its potential vaccine due to an “unexplained illness in one of the volunteers,” according to CNN. Last month, British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca also announced that it was pausing clinical trials for its Oxford University-developed vaccine for similar reasons, citing “a neurological complication in a volunteer in Britain.”

AstraZeneca—which signed a deal with Egypt earlier this year to supply the country with an undisclosed number of vaccine doses—has since resumed clinical trials in the UK and some other parts of the world, however, the news did raise concerns about the effectiveness and safety of the company’s potential COVID-19 vaccine, which shares certain properties with Johnson & Johnson’s, according to The Verge.

Dr. Zayed’s comments also echo concerns by many about the equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, in the event that it gets developed, with reports that the world’s richest countries have already acquired more than half of the vaccines being developed, according to Vice Arabia.