His ministry said Friday that Morocco has not yet received the vaccines.
Mustapha Ennaji Moulay, head of the virology department at the Hassan II University in Casablanca and a member of the government's COVID-19 scientific committee, said that regulators are reviewing the Sinopharm vaccine's documentation, and that the vaccination program is expected to begin in the coming days.
Morocco has one of the most advanced vaccination plans in the region. The country has also reported the second-highest number of virus infections and deaths in Africa, after South Africa.
While the Moroccan government has been promising vaccinations since earlier this month, the minister said preparations have now reached a “very advanced” stage. He said authorities were carrying out simulations at all the immunization sites “to avoid any obstacles that may arise during the implementation of the vaccination program.”
Moulay said Morocco has sought to diversify supply by signing contracts with multiple countries.
Morocco has said it will start its vaccination program with the Sinopharm vaccine, though it hasn't yet completed advanced trials to prove that it's safe and effective. The vaccine, which was tested on 600 Moroccans as part of clinical trials this autumn, has been approved for emergency use in a few countries and the company is still conducting late-stage clinical trials in multiple countries.
Morocco's initial vaccine deliveries will come from China, but Morocco also plans to produce the vaccine locally.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is still in advanced trials in countries including Britain and the U.S. and hasn’t been approved yet.
Morocco’s daily virus case count has fallen slightly in the last two weeks, but a dip in testing is raising concerns that the virus could be spreading faster than reported.
As a preventive measure to curb the spread of the virus during New Year’s celebrations, authorities banned public and private gatherings, closed restaurants in the country's main cities, and imposed a curfew that went into effect Wednesday night and is set to last for three weeks.