Muscat: Oman is expected to reach immunity against COVID-19 in six months, if vaccines continue to be delivered at the current rate, a specialist on infectious diseases in the country has said.
Dr Zaid Al Hinai, Consultant on Infectious Diseases at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, encouraged people who are eligible for the vaccine to get themselves jabbed at the earliest, with the country scheduled to receive nearly five million doses of the COVID-19 by October 2021.
This was made possible due to agreements signed with vaccine producers, and through the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), said Badar Al Rawahi, the Director of Infectious Disease Control at the Ministry of Health.
“This week, we received 210,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer, and 205,000 from the same company last week,” he told Oman TV.
“We will finish immunising 30 per cent of Oman’s population before the end of July 2021, if we continue receiving the supply of vaccines at the current rate which is 1.25 million doses monthly, of which a quarter of a million are distributed weekly.”
“Within the national vaccination strategy, we have identified a number of target groups, and we aspire to achieve a vaccination rate of 70 per cent of the people within these groups by July,” he added.
“The current stage of vaccination includes workers in the government and security fields, and those aged 45 and above.”
Currently, some 9.3 per cent of the population of Oman (335,866 people) have been vaccinated against the disease, according to Oman News Agency.
Among them, 57 per cent have been provided their first dose, while 43 per cent have received second doses.
Should the pace of vaccines continue at their current rate, school and university students are also in line to be vaccinated soon.
It is likely that being vaccinated could become a prerequisite for those who wish to enter educational facilities.
The longer-term objectives of the vaccination campaign are to vaccinate all those in the country above the age of 12.
Al Rawahi added that people in some parts of the country were reluctant to take the vaccines, because of rumours spread about its alleged effects, but he hoped the vaccination rate among those who are sceptical about receiving it increases in the coming days.
“Vaccination rates have reached only 40 per cent in Dhofar, for example, while in Muscat Governorate, it is at 100 per cent, as is the case in Al Dakhliyah and Al Dhahirah,” explained Al Rawahi.
“The vaccine is safe. It has been chosen by a committee specialised for this task, and we urge everyone to take it.”
Adding to this, Dr Zaid Al Hinai said that vaccines are the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Vaccines are the best weapon against this disease, and we receive large batches of the vaccine, we can distribute them to 15 to 20 percent of the country’s population per month,” he explained.
“If we reach 100 per cent vaccination coverage among the elderly, we can reach community immunity quickly, but we must continue to take precautions and maintain the current safety protocols so we can protect everyone from the disease, at least for the next six months. In the meantime, I ask everyone to step forward and take the vaccine as soon as they are able to.”
The current phase of Oman’s vaccination programme is split into three phases, according to the Ministry of Health.
The first stage, which began on 26 May, saw vaccines given to students undergoing their final general education diploma, and their supervisors, as well healthcare workers, the Royal Oman Police, and the armed forces.
A number of vaccines have also been distributed to private health centres. These have also been used to give second doses of the vaccine to people in Musandam, and those in the country who have had a 10 week gap after their initial shot.
The second stage, expected to start on 21 June, will see people above 45 years vaccinated, while stage three, which is scheduled to start in the first half of July, will see students and staff in higher education institutions vaccinated.