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COVID-19 vaccine: Shot of hope

18 May 2021 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

As the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel appears nearer for the first time in Oman with the sultanate procuring enough vaccines for all, this is an opportune moment to be hopeful and allay some fears over the virus. 

I am in the age group that is yet to be vaccinated and I am hopeful that sooner or later, my turn will come as more doses arrive in a few weeks. 

Those who have been vaccinated say they feel as though they were injected with hope; a real shot in the arm.

Oman has been immunising its people with Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-bioNTech vaccines, many more doses of which will arrive soon. The first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines in Oman was gifted by India in February. This week, in another first for the country, the Ministry of Health (MoH) received a batch of Chinese Sinovac vaccines as part of the close ties and joint cooperation with China. 

This batch of 100,000 doses is yet another glimmer of hope; slowly but surely our lives will be back to how we lived it. 

Oman began its National Immunisation Campaign against COVID-19 in December 2020. The authorities had earlier announced that Oman expects 200,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of June or early July and its plan to immunise 70 per cent of the population by the end of the year. 

Being pro-vaccine, I will take whichever vaccine is offered to me. I do not prefer one over another, I have no reason to complain because there are many people who need the shots more than I do. The shots are much needed now for life to return to normal.

In the past, we were worried about possible flu-like symptoms after the jabs which is no longer the concern now considering we know that the benefits far outweigh the risks. 

Getting vaccinated doesn’t imply the end of the pandemic but we must look forward to being immunised. And until then, we need to follow the rules of social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands frequently and restricting gatherings.

Through COVAX – the global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines – more than 240,000 doses of different vaccines were expected to arrive in the sultanate between mid-March and the beginning of May 2021. MoH is exerting every effort to receive more doses.

According to officials, the biggest hurdle in getting vaccines is not a financial matter but a delay by vaccine producing countries. Supply of doses is a common challenge for all countries of the world. 

To make sure the shots reach the people quickly, vaccines will be made available to the private sector and MoH has been able to cover the target segment set by a technical team. The target segment, which constitutes less than 20 per cent of the population, will now have access to vaccines via the private sector.

For those not sure of the safety of vaccines, officials have reiterated and reaffirmed that Oman will not receive any vaccine or medical drug before checking if it is safe. To this end, authorities have in the past deplored unfounded rumours and misinformation in circulation via social media about vaccines expressing dismay at some favouring one vaccine over others. Such preferences, authorities noted, are not based on scientific evidence.

Vaccines of some international companies have not been given the approval of World Health Organization; such companies use the vaccines in their respective regions. But Oman does not accept any vaccine unless it is endorsed by WHO.

According to WHO, equitable access to safe and effective vaccines is critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is hugely encouraging to see so many vaccines proving safe and effective and going into development. WHO is working tirelessly with partners to develop, manufacture and deploy safe and effective vaccines.

We are numbed by the loss of our loved ones, but it is the hope of getting a vaccine against COVID-19 which offers succour. I cannot begin to describe the relief I feel as I see people close to me finally getting their jabs.

 

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