Oman is expected to receive 200,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June or the beginning of July 2021, said Dr Ahmed Mohammed Al Saidi, Minister of Health.
By the end of March 2021, Oman is likely to receive thousands of doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Al Saidi said, adding that coordination is under way among governments of the world to regulate the distribution of vaccines.
The minister added that, through the 190-strong international vaccine alliance of states, more than 240,000 doses of different vaccines are scheduled to arrive in the Sultanate from mid-March to the beginning of May 2021.
The Ministry of Health is exerting efforts to receive one million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, said Dr. Ahmed, noting that a contract will be signed to add 500,000 more doses of PfizerbioNTech.
The minister pointed out that the biggest hurdle towards receiving vaccines is not the financial position, but rather the delay from vaccine producing countries. The Sultanate has so far received a total of 180,000 doses, of which 80,000 were PfizerbioNTech and 100,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca.
Vaccine supply is a common challenge to all countries of the world, said Dr. Ahmed, adding that the Sultanate approached many international companies, but it will not endorse any medicine before checking its validity, safety and efficiency.
The minister regretted the fact that some shunned vaccination with Oxford-AstraZeneca. He reaffirmed that the Sultanate will not receive any vaccine or medical drug before checking that it is safe and secure for human consumption.
“The delay in receiving PfizerbioNTech is beyond the will of the Ministry of Health. It is a global delay that occurred when the company opted to expand one of its European factories,” said Dr. Ahmed.
He exhorted citizens, residents and health workers to come forward and take the vaccines which, he said, are effective and secure. He reaffirmed that no serious side-effects were registered in the Sultanate or elsewhere in the world so far from COVID-19 vaccines.
The minister deplored unfounded rumours and wrong information in circulation via social media about the vaccines. He also expressed his dismay at some health workers’ favouring some vaccines over others, noting that such opinions are not based on any scientific evidence.
Dr. Ahmed asserted that, after Oxford-AstraZeneca was administered to scores of millions of people, studies showed that this vaccine—even though it might not be the best—has been equally efficient as other vaccines.
In this context, the minister referred to the experience of one of the countries that administered Oxford-AstraZeneca to 140,000 people and found out that it adds extra protection from acute infection and contributes to shorter hospitalisation and cutting down death rates by more than 94 percent, compared to the products of other companies that registered only 84 percent in similar cases (of infection and death).
Dr. Ahmed underscored the fact that there is scientifically and practically no difference between PfizerbioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca, though one of the two might by more abundant than the other at a certain time.
New segments of society will be given priority to vaccination, said the minister, noting that the age limit of target groups will be brought down and that Oman hopes to cover 60% of citizens and residents by the end of 2021.
The minister explained that the vaccines of some international companies have not yet been given the approval of World Health Organization (WHO) and that such companies use the vaccines in their respective regions, but the Sultanate will not accept any vaccine not endorsed by the WHO.
Oman began its National Immunisation Campaign against COVID-19 late last December 2020 at a time the turnout of citizens was initially slow and when Health Ministry officials, governors and walis were in constant contact with citizens to encourage them to join the immunisation drive, said Dr. Ahmed.
As for the private sector, the supply of vaccines will be made after the ministry has been able to cover the target social segment set by the technical team, said the minister, who explained that this segment, which constitutes 20 percent or less (of the population), is highly vulnerable to infection and its full coverage is likely to take place during or before the end of April 2021. Then, the vaccine will be made available in the private sector for those wishing to be vaccinated, said the minister.