Morocco’s vaccination campaign is one of the best in the world, yet progress could be threatened by “vaccine nationalism.”
Rabat – Morocco’s vaccination campaign has received global praise but faces a threat from countries blocking vaccine exports. With the EU and India set to limit or stop altogether their exports of AstraZeneca vaccines, Morocco is at the mercy of its suppliers.
Morocco World News on Wednesday, March 24, spoke with Dr Mustapha Ennaji who is a renowned professor and virologist and is part of the council overseeing Morocco’s vaccination campaign.
Doctor Ennaji highlighted the country’s great strides forward in ensuring vaccine distribution to the most vulnerable, yet warned that further progress could depend on foreign vaccine suppliers.
The EU and India are both facing heavy impacts from the COVID-19 crisis. In order to prioritize their own populations, both have indicated they aim to limit or pause vaccine exports to countries including Morocco.
While Morocco has made every effort possible to secure a variety of different vaccines from suppliers around the world, the country is still “at the mercy of countries producing it,” according to Ennaji.
Observers have largely seen Morocco’s vaccination campaign as a success over the past months. “The vaccination campaign is well-organized, tightly controlled and great progress has been made,” Ennaji stated.
Currently, 17% of the population has received their first dose of the AstraZeneca or Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines, Ennaji explained.
“The first stage was to vaccinate the frontlines, a phase we successfully concluded,” Ennaji elaborated. Since then, Morocco has been able to vaccinate vulnerable and high risk individuals such as senior citizens and is now set to expand its reach.
“Currently, the vaccination campaign is aiming to provide vaccination to Moroccans aged 55 years old and under,” Ennaji told MWN.
While much remains unclear about the availability of vaccines, Morocco can take great pride in its achievements according to Ennaji. “Through this vaccination campaign, we have succeeded to protect the most vulnerable members of our society against this disease,” he said.
“All frontliners have already received both necessary doses,” Ennaji explained, adding that ”the campaign is still ongoing to immunize the rest of the population until we reach the 70% threshold, to then reach the stage of the immunisation that will allow us to practice herd immunity.”
While Morocco has made great progress, it continues to depend on foreign suppliers for its vaccines. Ennaji expanded on this international struggle for vaccines, saying “there is global pressure on these mentioned suppliers, to accommodate each country’s needs, Morocco is no exception.”
The doctor, who has been deeply involved in the campaign’s organization, highlighted the example of India. The South Asian country has decided to restrict vaccine exports in order to deal with its escalating internal COVID-19 crisis.
“This means that there might be a slight delay in the arrival of doses to Morocco,” Ennaji highlighted.
The current situation means Morocco is dependent on foreign manufacturers for its supply. “Morocco has no option but to turn to other countries that produce this vaccine to be supplied or to wait for these countries to provide it with the vaccine,” Ennaji told MWN. “It has no option, there is no third option for Morocco to continue its vaccination campaign,” the doctor emphasized.
Without local vaccine production, little will change about this power imbalance, according to Dr Ennaji. “ If Morocco had the ability to produce its vaccine, it would produce it and export it, only in that case, we can say that Morocco has a choice.”
Morocco is now further diversifying its vaccine supply in order to prevent shortages in the midst of its campaign. Ennaji explained that there are other options available. “There are multiple sources for the vaccine, first it was AstraZeneca and Sinopharm and recently there is the possibility to turn to Sputnik and to South Korea’s AstraZeneca (manufacturing facility) as well,” he said.