Muscat: More than 1,200 companies have applied for COVID-19 vaccines in Oman, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Health. The ministry plans to distribute all of the vaccines due to the companies by July.
Speaking exclusively to the Times of Oman, Ibrahim Al Rashdi, the Assistant Director for Medical Supplies at the ministry, said companies began submitting vaccine requests in the first week of May of this year.
“There was a great turnout from private companies and institutions,” he said. “Before the end of the registration period on 10 June, we received requests from more than 1,200 organisations. We have about 500 companies that have reserved less than 120 doses, at the rate of two doses per head, and about another 500 that have reserved less than a thousand doses,” he added.
“The most vaccines reserved by a single company was one that has about 5,000 employees working in the private sector,” he added. “Because of this, we have received funds ranging from OMR40 for two doses for a single employee, to more than OMR200,000, which was intended to vaccinate these 5,000 private sector workers.”
Companies began receiving vaccines after the registration cut-off date, said Al Rashdi. He added that between 200 and 300 organisations have been given their COVID vaccines, and efforts are also underway to supply to other companies that have registered.
In the beginning of the vaccination drive, priority was given to private sector firms operating in essential fields, such as oil and gas, ports, airports, and the banking sector.
Explaining how the ministry distributed vaccines to private sector firms, Al Rashdi said, “a team specialising in processing requests from companies studies all the registrations we receive, and then provides companies vaccines based on the stock we receive, while making sure the vaccination drive for the rest of our society is not affected.
“The efforts to provide immunity against COVID-19 have not been made just for the sake of buying vaccines for private sector employees,” he added. “The Minister of Health has stressed that vaccinations will be free for all locals and residents in Oman, but we hope that organisations that wish to participate in these efforts will look at it as a kind of social responsibility, which will help support the government, and also prioritise private sector workers when it comes to distributing COVID vaccines to them.”
“There is no obligation for private sector companies to contribute to the immunisation project against COVID-19,” said Al Rashdi. “We asked them to not take the amount due for the vaccine from their workers, but rather contribute towards the vaccines themselves, so that they can vaccinate all their employees.”
Aside from the cost of OMR20 for a single dose, and OMR40 for two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, a fixed administrative fee of OMR3 per dose has been agreed upon, so that prices are not manipulated and people’s desire to get the vaccine is not exploited.
While OMR40 is transferred to the Ministry of Health’s bank accounts, the OMR3 that is paid to healthcare centres per dose needs to be paid when private sector employees are administered the vaccine. Should it be found that hospitals are charging people more than the required OMR3 fee, the specialists in the ministry will conduct the required investigations to find out why.
To make sure companies are updated about when their vaccines will reach them, confirmatory emails are sent to all organisations that have reserved their doses. However, he added that some did not receive their confirmation, because when they filled out the online vaccine request form, they may have made mistakes such as entering the wrong company email address.
“We cannot verify whether company emails are correct, so companies that do make mistakes are alerted that there is an error in the data they have sent us,” explained Al Rashdi. “A weekly disbursement schedule is prepared for the approved private health centres, which have signed agreements with companies to provide vaccines to their employees at a specified time and date. Accordingly, we calculate the amount of vaccines we need to distribute daily. The distribution schedule is sent out at least a day before companies are set to receive their vaccines, and a copy is sent to each company that has registered as well.”
However, the 600 or more companies that have each booked less than 120 doses for their staff will not receive a copy of the receipt. Instead, this will only be sent to the healthcare centre, which will coordinate directly with the relevant companies.
Companies that booked before 1 June will receive their full quota of vaccines by this week, while those that booked between June 1 and 10 will get their required doses in the last week of June and first week of July.
“There are some companies that are essentially consist of a single individual – they had booked less than 10 doses, so they will need to coordinate with Oman International Hospital, which will communicate directly with them,” said Al Rashdi.
“After the distribution lists have been made, we will not talk to the company to reserve doses for its employees, but instead discuss this directly with the healthcare centres. Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca are available to private sector employees.”
Ibrahim Al Rashdi also expressed his deep thanks to all companies in the private sector which contributed to the COVID-19 immunisation efforts by vaccinating their employees, in order to preserve their health and keep their families safe.
“This will ensure the continued progress of our economy, and help develop our various resources,” he added, while also thanking the Minister of Health and all those who worked hard to provide vaccines for private sector organisations.