COVID-19 vaccine: Wait over, as target groups urged to come forward for shots

Oman Saturday 26/December/2020 21:23 PM
By: Times News Service
COVID-19 vaccine: Wait over, as target groups urged to come forward for shots
The first consignment of vaccines procured by Oman consists of 15,600 doses.

Muscat: Oman’s vaccination drive against COVID-19 will begin today, following the arrival of the first consignment of vaccines in the country.

The first people to receive the vaccine will be frontline workers, those with chronic diseases, and the elderly, as they are considered the most vulnerable to the disease.

The vaccine, produced by American company Pfizer in collaboration with German firm BioNTech, will be administered in two doses, 21 days apart. It aims to stimulate the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to safely fight the virus.

The Ministry of Health has drawn up a plan to distribute the vaccine at pre-determined locations across the country’s 11 governorates.

The first consignment of vaccines consists of 15,600 doses, with a second batch expected to arrive by early January 2021.

With the country aiming to vaccinate 60 per cent of people in the country, phase one will cover 20 per cent of the targeted population.

Individuals under the targeted vaccination groups are requested to come forward so they can be administered the vaccine.

Awareness programmes educating people about the importance of being vaccinated will be run during the drive.

In the context of efforts to address the pandemic, one of the priorities of the Ministry of Health was to ensure that the country gets its share of the COVID-19 vaccine by following several steps, the most important of which is the formation of a working group to help provide a viable, reliable vaccine.

The group was headed by the Deputy Minister of Health for Health Affairs, with its other members including the Director General Disease Surveillance and Control, the Director General of Medical Supplies, the Director General of Primary Health Care, the General Director of Pharmacy and Drug Control, and the in addition to the Director of the Infectious Diseases Control Department.

The role of the group was defined under Ministerial Decision No. 120/2020, which states that the team is responsible for following up global developments in the field of manufacturing and producing an anti-coronavirus vaccine, and setting up methods to obtain the appropriate vaccine in coordination with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, the World Health Organization, and other companies providing this specialised service.

Experts and specialists may be sought by the team to this end, and the team’s leader is required to submit a report on the recommendations over choosing the appropriate vaccine from among those produced globally.

The arrival of the vaccine has been preceded by many steps, including the implementation of a nationwide questionnaire to poll public opinion about the COVID-19 vaccine, which is aimed at assessing the level of community awareness, attitudes and practices related to its presence in the Sultanate.

A digital surveillance and recovery programme to help administer the vaccine, and follow up with those who have received it has also been set up.

Several meetings were held at various levels, including between the Minister of Health and the Directors General across the governorates to discuss the implementation plan for the vaccine, in keeping with preparations to administer it to people.

Meetings were also held with directors of infectious disease control, and vaccination specialists across the country. A training programme for healthcare workers issuing the vaccine was also held.

Because this vaccine has to be preserved at temperatures of -80 degrees Celsius, maintaining the cold storage chain for it is one of the most basic requirements to ensure its retains its quality and is safe to use.

It was important to ensure the readiness of all the governorates for storing the vaccine, after all of the required logistical support was provided as part of the national campaign for COVID-19 immunisation, which included the provision of ultra-low temperature thermal fridges to maintain steady temperatures from the time the vaccine was manufactured until it reached its final destination.

A facility within the Tarassud COVID-19 monitoring platform – which was developed locally and meets international specifications – enables the monitoring of all vaccine recipients, whether they received it from public or private healthcare centres.

The purpose of this app is to also record any side effects, if any, felt by those who have been vaccinated.

The arrival of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was made possible after the ministry issued a licence allowing this vaccine to be used on people aged 16 and above in case of emergencies, as part of the country’s decision to speed up its procurement.

Other steps taken prior to its import were evaluation of the vaccine’s efficiency, which were received by the Directorate General of Pharmacy and Drug Control, from Pfizer, on 26 November. The conclusion was that the potential and known benefits of the vaccine outweighed its expected risks.

A further step taken by the ministry was to wait until the vaccine had been approved by health authorities in the UK and Canada, as well as the US Food and Drug Administration, before allowing its use.