When Egypt’s health ministry sent out an invitation to doctors to be vaccinated against Covid-19, they neglected to make clear it was a clinical trial.

Instead, it assured them that two Covid-19 vaccines developed by China’s National Biotec Group, part of a state-owned conglomerate known as Sinopharm, had no side-effects and that “the minister of health was vaccinated today, and orders were issued to vaccinate all doctors and workers who wish to be vaccinated”.

Many were sceptical. “When my colleagues and I got that message, none of us participated, as we cannot trust it,” said one worker at a state hospital, who said there was a “lack of credibility” in the government’s approach to the pandemic and the vaccines.

The doctor, who cannot be named to protect their safety, described Egypt’s extensive publicity campaign around the vaccines, featuring a well-known actor driving to a sunlit clinic to get his jab, as “government propaganda intended to boost people’s morale”.