March 10 – 17, 2021 | Press Review Morocco

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

March 17, 2021

the National Scientific Committee recommends the continuation of the AstraZeneca vaccine

Le Comité national scientifique adhoc pour l’élaboration de la stratégie vaccinale contre la COVID-19 recommande le maintien de l’utilisation du vaccin AstraZeneca au Maroc.

Dans son communiqué, le Comité a fait le point sur la suspension de façon provisoire du vaccin AstraZeneca par certains pays occidentaux suite à la survenue de quelques effets cardiaques chez quelques patients. 

Pour le moment, 30 cas de maladies thromboemboliques ont été rapportés en Europe sur 5.000.000 doses de vaccins d’Astrazeneca (0,06 pour mille). Au Royaume-Uni, 35 cas ont été rapportés pour 9.700.000 doses de vaccins (0.03 pour mille).   

« Ces chiffres sont bien en dessous de l’incidence annuelle de la maladie qui est de 1 cas pour 1000 en Europe ou au Etats-Unis où plus de 200 000 nouveaux cas de thrombose surviennent chaque année », indique le Comité.

« Au Maroc, à la date 15 mars 2021, après administration de 5.992.783 doses de vaccins (dont 4 628 695 AstraZeneca et 1 364 088 Sinopharm), le Centre National de Pharmacovigilance (CAPM) a reçu les notifications de 4 cas d’événements thromboemboliques », souligne-t-on dans le communiqué. 

He added that “After thorough analysis of the reported cases, thromboembolic disease was retained in only one case. In two cases, the link between the vaccine and the disease has not been established, while the last case is under investigation.

Consequently, and in accordance with the statements of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and national data, the scientific committee recommends maintaining the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The committee also recalls that the vaccines used in the vaccination campaign will continue to be monitored for post-vaccination adverse events, while maintaining scientific surveillance.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

WHO recommends continuing vaccination with AstraZeneca

“At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue,” the UN agency said in a statement.

“At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue,” the UN agency said in a statement.

Some European Union countries have temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precautionary measure based on reports of rare blood clotting disorders in people who received the vaccine. Other EU countries – after reviewing the same information – have decided to continue using the vaccine.

“Thromboembolic events are known to occur frequently. Venous thromboembolism is the third most common cardiovascular disease in the world,” the WHO said.

In extensive vaccination campaigns, “it is common for countries to report potential adverse events after vaccination. This does not necessarily mean that these events are related to the vaccination itself, but it is good practice to investigate,” the WHO notes.

The WHO says it is “in regular contact with the European Medicines Agency and regulators around the world to obtain the latest information on the safety of COVID-19 vaccine”, noting that its Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety is carefully evaluating the latest safety data available for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

Figuig: here are the historical and recent causes of the farmers’ expulsion

In a few hours, 30 distraught Moroccan farmers will have to abandon their land in El Arja, at the request of the Algerian authorities. From 1901 to March 2021, here is the story of the “Figuig affair” as told by experts.

In the first official communiqué issued by the Moroccan authorities on Tuesday 16 March, the province of Figuig describes the decision of the Algerian authorities to prohibit the farmers of Figuig from accessing the “El Arja” area, located on the Moroccan-Algerian border, as “temporary and temporary”.

In the area concerned by this ban, there are 15,000 palm trees belonging to some thirty Moroccan farmers who have been forced to leave the area by the Algerian authorities before 18 March 2021.

According to the same Moroccan press release, the governor of the Figuig region met with those concerned by this situation in order to “examine possible solutions to mitigate the repercussions of this decision on the farmers of these agricultural lands”.

Since 14 March, the latter have begun to prepare to defend their rights and are planning to organise a demonstration on 18 March, although they have also spent the last few days moving everything they can.

Solar panels, pumps, herds…, everything goes, even male date palm plants have been uprooted by the farmers who only have 48 hours to leave the place where “Algerian soldiers have already set up their tents”, says Boubkeur Largou, president of the OMDH (Moroccan human rights organisation), considered as a reference in this matter.

In the city, protest rallies follow one another while Facebook pages show a ballet of trucks moving objects, animals and plants. All the sources describe a heavy atmosphere, which can be seen on the countless videos. A heavy, sad, tragic atmosphere.

“Some of these farmers used to live there. Today, they are dismantling doors and windows to leave before 18 March”, explains an activist in Figuig.

This activist, who knows all the farmers closely, describes an atmosphere of mourning in the region. According to him, some of these farmers are depressed because they are confused and forced to abandon their livelihood and the land they have been working for decades, without any financial compensation, without any help from the authorities and “without even being listened to”.

Moreover, the explanations obtained so far “are only a decoy to put an end to the protests”, accuses Abdelmalek Boubekri, one of the farmers concerned.

A “temporary ban that will end with the pandemic”, according to the Algerian embassy quoted by Pacha

Contacted by us, Mr. Boubekri said that on Tuesday 16 March, the Pasha of Figuig met with many of the aggrieved farmers and passed on the Algerian Embassy’s explanation that “the ban on access to El Arja is not definitive and will end with the pandemic”.

Back to bilateral agreements

Contacted by Médias24, human rights activist Boubkeur Largou and historian Mostafa Bouaziz take us back to 1901, when a convention was signed between French Algeria and the Cherifian Kingdom.

“According to this agreement, the Figuiguis and the Amour tribes have the right to exploit these lands, because almost all the Figuiguis palm trees were in Algeria,” explains Mr Largou.

This is confirmed by Mr Bouaziz. According to him, ‘the 1901 agreement with France allowed these populations to exploit their land without any hindrance’.

Moreover, as Mr Largou points out, ‘this agreement was recalled in the 1972 agreement on the delimitation of the state border between the Kingdom of Morocco and Algeria’. But ‘it is the ambiguous application of this text that explains, in part, the current situation’, says Mr Bouaziz.

According to Mr Bouaziz, “in international law, when there are ridges and heights on the border of a country, it is the heights that form the border. The idea is not to give one country an advantage over another in the event of a conflict, because whoever holds the heights wins the war. Where there are no ridges or heights, rivers form the border. In this case, in addition to the heights, there is a river that passes through Moroccan territory, crosses the border and goes towards Algeria.

“In 1972, the Algerian regime drew the border on the watercourse by taking over the heights. But the people who have their land on both sides of the river were not informed. Today, they are paying the price of a long-lasting border conflict.

“The Algerian regime says that it is its territory according to the 1972 treaty, but for the populations it is their property. They have deeds to prove it and according to international law, sovereignty does not alienate private property.

In other words, “if the Algerian regime considers that these people should leave, it should compensate the owners”.

Mr. Largou followed the same reasoning. For him, “a distinction must be made between state sovereignty and private property, since in order to expropriate a person, he must be compensated”.

But the historical aspect is not the only explanation behind the current situation in El Arja. For Mostafa Bouaziz, this problem also has a situational aspect.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link .

March 16, 2021

Morocco suspends flights with six new countries, including Argentina and Cameroon

The National Airports Office announced on 16 March the suspension by the Moroccan authorities of flights to and from Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Cameroon, Croatia and Mozambique. The suspension takes effect from midnight on 15 March until 10 April. “Passengers travelling from these countries through another country are also affected,” the ONDA said.

On 6 March, Morocco had also suspended flights with six other countries: Lebanon, Norway, Kuwait, Finland, Greece and Poland. On 2 March ONDA said that other countries affected by the suspension of flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic are Italy, Belgium, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Brazil, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Denmark and the UK.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

March 14, 2021

Ministry of Health urges people not to go to walk-in vaccination centres without an appointment

The Ministry of Health called on citizens who could not be vaccinated in time against COVID-19, to avoid going to vaccination centres and wait for a new appointment for this purpose.The ministry also insisted, in a statement issued on Sunday, on the need to respect sanitary measures, including the wearing of protective masks, social distancing or frequent hand washing, in order to achieve collective immunity.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

Extension of the suspension of several international flights

The Moroccan authorities have extended the suspension of international flights to and from certain countries until 10 April. The lifting of this measure, scheduled for 21 March, has been postponed for Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Turkey, but also for Poland, Norway, Finland, Greece, Lebanon and Kuwait.

An announcement by the airline Air Arabia confirmed this, through the extension of the suspension of the company’s flights. For its part, the Belgian embassy in Rabat also confirmed the measure, according to RTBF.

“The 10 April corresponds to the theoretical date of the end of the state of health emergency in force since March 2020. This provides for a night-time curfew until mid-March,” the representation said.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

March 13, 2021

“Residence Plus” or the gateway to a decent life in Morocco for immigrants

In a joint memorandum, the NGOs Papiers Pour Tous (PPT), Organisation Démocratique du Travail-Immigrés (ODT-I) and Conseil des Migrants Subsahariens au Maroc (CMSM) urge the Moroccan authorities to issue temporary residence permits to the migrant population settled in Morocco.

“One year after the detection of the first confirmed case of COVID-19, the situation of the migrant population in Morocco has clearly deteriorated due to the restrictions on movement resulting from health confinement,” says the document, a copy of which is available to Hespress. And the associations go on to state, “This population has unfortunately not benefited from any aid programme or direct support from the government like the Moroccan population and has only been able to rely on a few initiatives launched by civil society organisations and private donors and on social and community solidarity. It should be recalled that the signatories of the memorandum had already worked to ensure that these populations could benefit from free vaccination like everyone else in Morocco. In principle, this has been achieved while waiting for their age category (under 45 years) to allow them to be inoculated.

The authors of the memorandum, who are at the origin of the “Residence Plus” initiative, a concept that they consider positive, inclusive, simple and relevant, in a sincere desire to cooperate with the authorities, called on them to adhere to and appropriate it in accordance with the Kingdom’s international commitments. The project is likely to help the migrant population overcome the negative impact of the pandemic, which has further aggravated an initially precarious situation. “Residence Plus” calls on the authorities to grant a provisional residence permit, valid for one year, to all migrants established in Morocco who request it, in order to give them the opportunity to find a decent and legal job and to contribute to breaking the vicious circle of the requirement of a residence permit to obtain a job and the requirement of a certificate of employment to obtain a residence permit.

In this respect, Younes Foudil, coordinator of “Papiers Pour Tous”, explains that “the idea is that this population, which has been excluded from the aid programmes and others dedicated to it that the government was willing to grant during the health crisis, should be taken into consideration. He continued, “What we are asking is that the government breaks a vicious circle. It’s simple, to have a residence permit, they are asked for a work certificate and to have a work certificate the residence permit is obligatory, it’s like a snake biting its own tail. What we want, says Younes Foudil, is “for the authorities to take a courageous action and give them this sesame document temporarily, at least for those who request it, for one year, without any administrative blockage (just a photocopy of the passport as was the case in the first regularisation operations). These actions can help people find work, regularise a precarious situation, rent, in short, to live with dignity and be able to bounce back.

This is why we called this initiative “Residence Plus”, says the coordinator of “Papiers Pour Tous”. And to develop this “Plus”, “it is an initiation that brings a plus to all, to the migrants, to the authorities, to the civil society, we are in the positive, we are in the construction, we strongly ask that the government adheres to it. Even in the context of vaccination, it is essential, it will allow a large majority of migrants to register to benefit from it”.

As a reminder, the Moroccan authorities and NGOs consider that migrants fall into five categories. Holders of a still valid residence card, those with an expired residence card, and immigrants without residence, whose application for the establishment of status was rejected in 2014 and/or 2017, in addition to the two categories of immigrants who do not have residence status, and who have not applied to regularise their residence status, and finally, immigrants settled in a non-urban area, such as forests and mountains.

The signatories of the memorandum believe that the residence permit or “residence card” should be thought of in a more global and positive way and not only as a simple administrative document to be presented during identity checks. The residence permit should be considered rather as a sesame that would facilitate the socio-economic inclusion of the migrant population and give them the possibility to prepare and better position themselves in view of the economic recovery opportunities that are already emerging in the post-Covid period.

While remaining confident that the present grievances in favour of the migrant population, in line with the humanist vision of King Mohammed VI and in coherence with the National Strategy on Immigration and Asylum, will be fully taken into consideration, the signatories of this memorandum, praise in advance the courageous, concrete and relevant measures that will contribute to further strengthen the image of Morocco as a welcoming country, to be taken by the Moroccan authorities

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

March 12, 2021

WHO sees “no reason” not to vaccinate with AstraZeneca

Morocco receives 500,000 news d WHO sees “no reason” not to vaccinate with AstraZeneca

The World Health Organisation today (12 March) reassured people about the effectiveness of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine, saying it saw “no reason” not to use it, at a time when several European countries have announced the suspension of the vaccine as a precautionary measure.

Yes, we should continue to use AstraZeneca’s vaccine”, “there is no reason not to use it”, said Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation (WHO) at a press briefing in Geneva.

Denmark, Iceland and Norway have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precautionary measure because of concerns about blood clots in vaccinated people.

“The benefit of vaccination is considered to outweigh the risk at this stage “Olivier Véran, French Health Minister

However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued reassuring statements, stressing that “the information available to date indicates that the number of thromboembolism events in vaccinated individuals is not higher than that observed in the general population”.

France also said there was “no reason to suspend” injections of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for the time being. “The benefit of vaccination is considered to outweigh the risk at this stage,” said Health Minister Olivier Véran.

According to the EMA’s count, only 22 cases of thrombosis had been reported as of Tuesday for more than three million people vaccinated in its area (European Union, Norway and Iceland).

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

March 11, 2021

What you need to know about the Sputnik V and Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Both vaccines are in the process of being authorised in Morocco and have many advantages. Logistics, efficacy, side effects and use abroad… What we know about “Sputnik V” and “Johnson & Johnson”.

After being validated by the technical committee of vaccination, the vaccines “Sputnik V” and “Johnson & Johnson” are about to be authorized in Morocco by the Directorate of Medicines and Pharmacy, which is currently examining the files.

According to a press release published on Wednesday 10 March by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the emergency use of the Russian vaccine has been approved by the Moroccan authorities. This information has not yet been confirmed by the Ministry of Health at the time of writing.

In any case, if the health authorities give the green light for the emergency use of these two vaccines, Morocco will be able to provide additional doses of anti-Covid vaccine in order to carry out the vaccination campaign, the objective of which is, let us remember, to cover 80% of the adult population.

The vaccines under consideration by the DMP are both “viral vector” vaccines, i.e. manufactured on the basis of a harmless adenovirus. Moreover, they have similar logistical advantages.

While the Russian vaccine requires two doses 21 days apart, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is effective against the coronavirus in just one dose. What are their efficacy rates? Where have they been licensed and/or used around the world? What do the scientists think? Here is everything you need to know about Sputnik V and Johnson & Johnson, which are in the process of being authorised in Morocco.

Sputnik V: Validated by The Lancet

At less than $10 a dose, and in addition to having a serious storage advantage, since it can be kept at 2-8°C, like the Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines, the Russian vaccine was validated by the reference journal “The Lancet” last February.

With a confirmed efficacy of 91.6%, “Sputnik V” is one of the three vaccines against Covid with the highest efficacy rates to date.

In the phase 3 clinical trials of this vaccine, 21,977 adults were randomly assigned to two groups (vaccine and placebo). Of the people who received two doses of vaccine after a 21-day interval, 16 people out of the 14,964 participants in the vaccine group were infected with COVID-19 (0.1%).

In the placebo group, 62 out of 4,902 participants (or 1.3%) claimed to have been infected with the virus.

Attached to the study results published in The Lancet, a commentary by Professors Ian Jones and Polly Roy, states that the Sputnik V vaccine appears to be “safe and effective”.

It is considered “safe” because “most of the adverse events reported were grade 1 (7485 out of 7966 events in total)”, the review states.

Serious adverse events occurred in 0.3% of participants in the vaccine group and 0.4% in the placebo group. However, “none were considered to be associated with vaccination, as confirmed by the independent data monitoring committee”, the same document continues.

Four deaths were also reported during the study. Three of these were among the 16,427 participants in the vaccine group and one was among the 5,435 participants in the placebo group. Again, none were considered to be related to the vaccine.

Sputnik V: “Best-seller” and second worldwide in government approvals

According to statements by Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko in a 6 March 2021 conversation with WHO DG Tedros Adhanom, “the vaccine has become a global bestseller”, as it has “no serious side effects” and allows “cellular immunity to be formed against the pathogen COVID-19”.

“To date, millions of citizens have already received the Sputnik V vaccine”, as part of the national vaccination campaign that began in January 2021.

The country has vaccinated more than 6.6 million people (4.57% of its population) according to data from “”, as of 8 March 2021.

Johnson & Johnson: One dose is enough

While it has the same storage advantages as Sputnik V and other Covid vaccines (between 2 and 8°C), Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has the particularity of being able to be stored for three months and of immunising against Covid-19 in just one dose.

Approved on 27 February in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in adults, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is, according to the FDA analysis, 72% effective “in preventing infection in all variants of COVID-19 and 86% effective in preventing severe cases of the disease”.

As for adverse events, the FDA says that “the most frequently reported were injection site pain, headache, fatigue, muscle pain and nausea”.

“Most of these adverse events occurred within 1 to 2 days of vaccination and were mild to moderate in intensity,” the source continued.

Recently approved in 4 countries, millions of doses already ordered

In addition to the United States and South Africa, this vaccine was also authorised on 25 February in Bahrain (for emergency use) and in Canada on Friday 5 March (for conditional use). These are the four and only countries to have approved its use so far, with an application to the European Medicines Agency on 1 December 2020 and to the UK in late February 2021.

Although the latter application is recent, the country has already secured 30 million doses. This is almost the same amount as Canada, which has ordered 38 million doses.

Johnson & Johnson also announced in December 2020 that it had signed an advance purchase agreement with Gavi (the vaccine alliance) to supply 100 million doses of the Covid vaccine to the Covax programme in 2021, with the possibility of ordering a further 100 million doses in the same year, rising to 300 million in 2022 (a total of 500 million doses).

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

March 10, 2021

Here is the latest list of counter-indications to vaccination (Ministry of Health)

With more than 4 million people having received the first dose of the anti-Covid vaccine since the start of the national vaccination campaign, Morocco is among the top 10 countries that have successfully met the challenge of vaccination against Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Launched by HM King Mohammed VI upon receipt of the first batches of Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines, the national vaccination campaign aims to immunize more than 30 million inhabitants (66 million doses of vaccines ordered) free of charge, with a view to reducing and then eliminating cases of contamination and deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

And to ensure that the operation takes place under the best possible conditions, the Ministry of Health regularly updates the list of contraindications and the various measures to be respected according to the latest scientific data.

Thus, pregnant and breast-feeding women are still not eligible for anti-covid vaccination, as are people with a history of anaphylactic shock or angioedema and those who have had an allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine, the Ministry of Health warns.

In addition to the cases mentioned above, the ministry says that anyone aged 17 and over can be vaccinated regardless of their current illness or treatment.

Vaccination is also recommended for people who have already tested positive for COVID-19, provided that they have recovered and that a period of four weeks is observed after the onset of symptoms. In asymptomatic individuals, the same time frame should be observed from the first positive sample (1st positive PCR).

For patients who contracted COVID-19 after the first dose of vaccine, the second injection should be delayed. The deadline is four weeks after the onset of symptoms, provided that the patient has recovered, the ministry insists.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is also recommended for immunocompromised people and those with HIV, and for patients undergoing anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy. For the latter, vaccination must be followed by pressure on the injection site – without rubbing – for at least two minutes, the same source said.

For people undergoing chemotherapy or immunotherapy, the vaccines can be administered in between courses and at any time for patients undergoing hormone therapy or oral targeted therapy, the ministry said.

The ministry also says that vaccinations against COVID-19 and other vaccines should be separated as follows: At least 14 days between an inactivated vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine and at least 4 weeks between a live vaccine and the anticovid vaccine.

However, the Ministry specifies that urgent vaccinations (anti-rabies, anti-menigococcal, serum-tetanus) must be given priority when they are indicated, regardless of the vaccination status, over the anti-covid vaccination.

It should be noted that food and seasonal allergies are not a contraindication to these two types of vaccines currently used in Morocco. A simple illness without fever is also not a reason to delay vaccination, the ministry said, while reminding that vaccinated people must continue to respect preventive measures.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.