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Morocco starts coronavirus vaccination campaign

RABAT, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Morocco started a national coronavirus vaccination campaign on Thursday after receiving vaccine shipments from AstraZeneca and Sinopharm , state media said.

Inaugurating the campaign, King Mohammed was given the vaccine at his palace in Fez, the state news agency MAP said.

Morocco has received 2 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and 500,000 doses of a vaccine made by China’s Sinopharm. It began distributing them to centres around the country this week.

The palace said vaccinations would be available to all Moroccans over the age of 17. Health, security and teaching staff will receive the first shots.

Both are conventional vaccines that need only ordinary storage requirements as already used in Morocco, rather than the ultra-cold facilities needed for some other shots.

The government signed a deal with Sinopharm in August which involved conducting clinical trials in Morocco and announced plans to set up a production plant.

King Mohammed and Chinese President Xi Jinping had also discussed vaccine cooperation. Morocco agreed a deal in September to buy doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Morocco plans to vaccinate 80% of its population within three months.

But with increasing global competition for vaccine doses, the North African country’s ability to roll out a national programme depends on a steady flow of supply, health ministry officials said.

Wealthy countries are among those racing to secure doses, with the European Union trying to ensure it gets its vaccine supplies after drugmakers slowed deliveries to the bloc because of production problems.

By Wednesday, Morocco had recorded 468,383 coronavirus cases, including 8,207 deaths, with 13,995 cases still active. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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