Egypt expects to start receiving COVID-19 vaccines through the Geneva-based GAVI vaccine alliance in the coming weeks, Health Minister Hala Zayed said on Monday.

Egypt will get 40 million vials via GAVI for 20 million people or 20% of the 100 million population, Zayed said.

“It will give us the urgent needs during the first quarter,” Zayed said in a televised briefing.

“Within two or three weeks maximum there will be the beginning of the influx of GAVI vaccines, which largely will be AstraZeneca (vaccines),” she added.

GAVI and the World Health Organisation have established the COVAX initiative to secure fair vaccine access for lower and middle-income countries.

Zayed said Egypt also expected to sign a contract with AstraZeneca once an Egyptian drug regulator approves the company’s vaccines and that approval was expected within a week.

Egypt has asked Pfizer to send data for its vaccine to the regulator, Zayed said.

Egypt received its first shipment of vaccines developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in December, but further shipments have been delayed.

Zayed said more Sinopharm vaccines would arrive within days.

Egypt has signed a contract with Sinopharm to receive 40million more doses and hopes for a similar amount from AstraZeneca.

Vaccination rollout could start later this month or in early February after receiving the second shipment from Sinopharm, Zayed said.

The vaccine received “emergency authorization” to be used in Egypt, she added.

As of Monday, Egypt’s government has confirmed 150 753 infections and 8 249 deaths since the start of the pandemic more than 10 months ago.

However, health officials say the real number is likely far higher because of the relatively low rate of coronavirus testing and the exclusion of private test results.