COVID vaccine: Hope and caution

Oman Wednesday 02/December/2020 21:00 PM
By: Times News Service
COVID vaccine: Hope and caution

Muscat: Oman has ordered the COVID-19 vaccine which will soon be rolled out to people in the United Kingdom. 

On 2 December, 2020, approval was given to pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to provide their jointly developed vaccine to protect the population.

The UK is among the first countries in the world to approve a vaccine for distribution to the public, and an official from Oman’s Ministry of Health has said that the Sultanate will also receive batches of vaccines according to the country’s requirements.

“An agreement has been entered between the Government of Oman, Pfizer and the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) on the supply of vaccines to cover almost 20 percent of the Sultanate’s needs,” he said. “This will ensure we obtain the required quantity, effective from the fourth quarter of 2020 to the last quarter of 2021.

Dr Ahmed bin Salim Al Mandhari, Regional Director of the WHO for the Middle East Region, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading.

Regarding Oman, he said that the Sulatante is among the 22 countries in the region to procure vaccine at a fair price. “Oman is among the 11 countries self-financing tha purchase of vaccines and has also entered into agreements with COVAX Facility in cooperation with the WHO,” he added.

The Ministry of Health has already set up a national plan to cover the various categories of people needing vaccination on priority basis in all the governorates.

“Direct negotiations are currently ongoing with a number of vaccine manufacturing companies such as Oxford/AstraZeneca to ensure we get the required quantities,” he added. “The Ministry of Health is periodically evaluating the epidemiological condition of COVID-19 to identify the strategies and priorities to provide the vaccine to the required categories of people, depending on how the pandemic develops.”

Although talks are underway for Oman to procure vaccines to safeguard its people, the Ministry of Health has always stressed that it will only take vaccines from those companies that have received approval by international bodies, meet the required safety standards and successfully clear clinical trials.

Doses of the vaccine will primarily be used to inoculate those sections of society most vulnerable to infection and its associated complications. 

“These include front line personnel, those with chronic diseases, the elderly, and people with poor immunity,” explained the ministry official.

During his speech in the House of Commons, Matt Hancock, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, called the development of a successful vaccine a ‘monumental’ step in the right direction. 

“It’s no longer if there’s a vaccine, it’s when. In our battle against the virus, help is on its way,” he said. “Today is a triumph for all those who believe in science, a triumph for ingenuity and a triumph for humanity. I want to thank everyone who has played their part in this achievement. 

“The team at Pfizer and BioNTech, the volunteers who stepped up and took part in clinical trials and to the MHRA themselves who have made sure that this is a vaccine that we can all have faith in,” added Hancock. “Thanks to their efforts, I can confirm that the UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved coronavirus vaccine for supply.”