Morocco COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Outpaces Global, EU Rates

After a repeatedly delayed start to the campaign, Morocco appears to have beaten the odds by providing COVID-19 vaccinations to more than one in ten Moroccans. Photo: Simon Torsten

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Rabat – The rollout of Morocco’s national vaccination campaign against COVID-19 is proving to be a success as few nations outpace its vaccination rate. 

Some of the top countries in terms of vaccination rates have been the wealthiest on earth. The UK, US, Israel, and the UAE are some of the countries leading the pack. A few less affluent nations have managed to beat expectations, among them Serbia, Chile, and Morocco.

Citizens around the world are anxiously awaiting the moment they receive their vaccination and some form of a post-COVID-19 world is allowed to emerge. Those wishes have been complicated by vaccine hoarding by some of the world’s richest nations. While these nations make up less than 14% of the global population, they have claimed 70% of all vaccines this year.

In Africa, COVID-19 vaccines are as needed as they are unavailable. Initiatives like the UN’s COVAX plan aim to provide vaccines to those unable to make private deals with major pharmaceuticals. The World Trade Organization is considering scrapping vaccine patents that are benefiting the profits of pharmaceuticals while complicating its rollout.

Meanwhile countries continue to make their own arrangements, striking deals with Russian or Chinese manufactured vaccines in the face of a shortage of Western-made vaccines. 

Source: Our World in Data

Morocco’s approach

Morocco has been able to both strike private deals and benefit from programs like COVAX. Recognizing the upcoming struggle, Morocco struck deals with China’s Sinopharm as well as the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant Astrazeneca. 

That bet paid off. After a repeatedly delayed start to the campaign, Morocco appears to have beaten the odds by providing COVID-19 vaccinations to more than one in ten Moroccans.

The success of Morocco’s approach means that 4 million, or 12% of the population has received the first vaccination. In addition, 717,113 people have received their COVID-19 second vaccination as Morocco strides towards its goal of reaching herd immunity.

With the holy month of Ramadan approaching, Morocco’s testing has been reduced as daily cases are now counted in the hundreds, a significant decrease from the local COVID-19 epidemic’s peak in November. 

In order to keep Morocco’s success going, the country will need to be able to keep providing a steady supply of COVID-19 vaccines. The country struck several manufacturing agreements in 2020, as well as a possible new agreement with the EU still to come. Still, these agreements are yet to materialize, and Morocco continues to be dependent on foreign supplies.

Source: Our World in Data

Threats and obstacles

For a tourist hot spot like Morocco, a rapid return to pre-COVID-19 ‘normalcy’ is key. It’s vaccine campaign rollout has gone well, yet obstacles remain.

The main issue Morocco faces is that it continues to be dependent on foreign manufacturing for its COVID-19 vaccines. The country is expecting to receive 20 million doses by April, yet the global scramble for vaccines could complicate its success.

Data provided by the Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that Morocco’s early lead might not last. While the date predicts Morocco will outpace the rest of Africa, it still expects the country to not reach full vaccination until late 2022. The data expects all of the EU, as well as the US to complete their vaccination campaign by late 2021.

If the predictions by the Economist are correct, the COVID-19 crisis could be extended, in Morocco and globally. The WHO has warned that the current practice of “vaccine nationalism” risks that the virus mutates and continues to spread, endangering even countries that have achieved full herd immunity.

Much remains unclear about COVID-19 and its mutations. Similarly, the efficacy and duration of immunity provided by vaccines is anything but a given fact, especially if the crisis continues over several years.

Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

Preparing for Ramadan

For Morocco in particular, the coming religious festivities present a possible obstacle. Religious holidays have repeatedly become moments when the virus has been able to spread as people travel and meet family.

Morocco appears to be extending its night time curfews, likely in an effort to prevent such a scenario from playing out. Still, Morocco could see its epidemic decrease enough for locals to feel confident to visit family, possibly complicating the regional spread of COVID-19.

After a difficult year, with religious and family traditions put on halt, many Moroccans are pining for a return to normal. 

The development of Morocco’s COVID-19 epidemic, as well as the global context, are likely to indicate how feasible this desire is, and whether the country can continue to provide enough vaccines to reach its targets and fully reopen its economy.

Authorities in Morocco appear to be well aware of the need to continuously look abroad for new sources of vaccines. Meanwhile, the country’s measures will continue to attempt to keep the hard-fought progress intact and prevent a possible resurgence of the virus.