Algeria is the latest Arab country to manufacture a vaccine against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. It began producing the vaccine in late September under license from China’s Sinovac Laboratories, which is approved by the World Health Organization.
The state-owned company Saidal turned out 20,000 doses of the vaccine, called CoronaVac, in the first week. Bachir Allouache, director of control at the Ministry of Pharmaceutical Industry in Algeria, told Al-Fanar Media that production would soon reach eight million doses per month.
Allouache said 65 million doses could be manufactured annually, “without increasing production capacities or resorting to other production units.”
He noted that the pharmaceutical unit in Constantine, Algeria’s third-largest city, which is affiliated with Saidal laboratories, is capable of producing 200 million doses annually, enough to meet the needs of the country, as well as much of Africa.
“The team that produced the Algerian vaccine consists of 11 scientists, doctors and researchers who were trained by Chinese researchers from the Sinovac vaccine factory.”Othman Benjada
An official in the Algerian Ministry of Health
Allouache said the priority was to achieve collective immunity by vaccinating more than 30 million Algerians, or two-thirds of the population of 45 million people and equivalent to all those over the age of 14. (See a related article, “Algeria Requires Covid-19 Vaccine as a Condition to Attend Universities.”)
He expected that Algeria would be producing 100 million doses of vaccine by mid-2022, especially if another unit is opened with the Russian partner to produce the Sputnik vaccine.
By mid-October, Algeria had administered 14 million doses of vaccines against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Just over 200,000 Algerians have been infected since the start of the pandemic early last year, and more than 5,800 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded, according to the Reuters Covid-19 Tracker.
Other Arab countries manufacturing anti-Covid vaccines locally include Egypt, which announced in July that it had produced one million doses, and the United Arab Emirates, where 82 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
Othman Benjada, an official in the Algerian Ministry of Health, said the team that produced the Algerian vaccine consists of 11 scientists, doctors and researchers who were trained by Chinese researchers from the Sinovac vaccine factory.
He said “the Chinese were not satisfied with the staff supervising the production process in Algeria,” and insisted on monitoring the Saidal company’s plant in Constantine in late July. Chinese supervision “served as an applied training course for a number of company workers,” he said.
Professor Kamel Sanhadji, director of the National Agency for Health Security in Algeria, said that the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine is highly effective and is approved for use in most of the world.
Sunhaji said Saidal obtained permits from the Sinovac laboratories, as well as the approval of the World Health Organization, before allowing the vaccine to be produced and circulated in Algeria.
As for the scientific specifications of the vaccine, Sunhaji said it “works on the principle of an inactive virus, and uses non-living viruses or bacteria to expose the body’s immune system to them, without risking a dangerous reaction to the human being.”
It is effective in up to 78% of cases of Covid-19 for various degrees of infection, he said, and can be stored in an ordinary refrigerator at a temperature between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.
“I am vaccinated with the Chinese Sinovac, and I was ready to take the locally manufactured vaccine, because I trusted science above all.‘‘Naima Serhan
A student at Abderrahmane Mira University, in Bejaia
Lahlali Mouaffak, a doctor specializing in cardiopulmonary resuscitation at Jijel Hospital, 315 kilometers east of Algiers, said there is a great need to persuade Algerians to get the vaccine.
Speaking to Al-Fanar Media, he said: “There are rumors that are not scientifically proven, and there are calls for the government to impose the vaccine on citizens, in light of the terrible pressure that the medical staff is experiencing.”
Mouaffak advocates constraints to persuade people to get vaccinated, saying: “Algerians are now required to show the vaccination card, in a number of public places such as football stadiums and swimming pools.”
Reda Ben Sayeh, a worker at the Road Works Company in the state of Bejaia, in eastern Algeria, said a massive mobilization campaign is required in which doctors and scientists clarify the nature and effectiveness of the vaccine.
“Many Algerians are suspicious and lost” between claims about the danger of the vaccine and others who say it could end the crisis globally, he said. “Between this and that, the Ministry of Health must clarify everything.”
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Rahima Serkaj, an employee in a local administration in the state of Bordj Bou Arreridj, in eastern Algeria, said: “The biggest challenge for the Ministry of Health and the government in general is to convince the citizen of the effectiveness and importance of the vaccine, which is a step I consider more important than producing the vaccine itself.”
Naima Serhan, a student at Abderrahmane Mira University, in Bejaia, said the vaccine, whether locally produced or imported, was a necessity to end the crisis. “I am vaccinated with the Chinese Sinovac, and I was ready to take the locally manufactured vaccine, because I trusted science above all.”
To read more about how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting education, research and culture in the Arab region, see a collection of articles from Al-Fanar Media.