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Why aren’t vaccines free?

12 Jun 2021 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

Citizens and residents have raised questions regarding the fee charged by private hospitals in the country to vaccinate people. If COVID-19 vaccines are free for all, then why should private hospitals charge a fee, they ask. 

Many hospitals in Muscat are promoting offers wooing prospective customers to register for vaccination by paying RO22 or RO46, depending on the brand of vaccine administered. Others are offering ‘on-the-spot’ vaccination on payment.   

Such promotions by private hospitals have led to concerns among the public who say vaccination should be 100 per cent free. “COVID-19 is dangerous and spreading faster than before. Vaccination should be encouraged and not charged. I feel the vaccine should be free for all. It’s wrong of private hospitals to charge for the vaccine when we know the government is saying it’s free for all,” said Mohammed al Harthi, a retired citizen.

Another concerned member of the public, Baboo Vinod, a private sector employee, said, “At a time when the entire world and mankind is suffering due to COVID-19, we must stand by one another. There must be a collective effort from all of us to stay united. Private hospitals charging for vaccines at this critical juncture is really not acceptable.”

He noted that most countries are giving vaccines against COVID-19 free, so hospitals in Oman “charging a big amount is sad”. 

“We are in a pandemic and the common man needs help from society. Also the price is too high. How can a blue-collar worker take the shot? People with money shouldn’t be allowed to jump the queue,” Vinod added.

A promotional message from one private hospital in Muscat claimed booking for vaccinations was open. 

‘Age limit 18-45 years for Omanis; above 45 years for expats. RO22 for two doses of AstraZeneca,’ the promo said. 

A promo by another hospital said, ‘Anyone interested to get COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech @ RO46 for 2 doses or AstraZeneca 2 doses for RO32) can book for the same. Vaccines will be given to the persons whose names are registered at the hospital after 10 days of booking on first-booked-first-served basis.’

According to the Ministry of Health, vaccines are free for all but private sector companies are providing vaccination services for a price based on cost of vaccine, and shipping, storage and logistical fees according to the requirements of the manufacturers.

The sultanate was among the first countries to join Global Vaccine Alliance. ‘The shortage of vaccines has nothing to do with financial problems,’ the ministry earlier stated.

 

“COVID-19 vaccines are free for all but some people need the shots urgently for travel purposes and they can’t wait. So the option is to go to the private hospitals,” an MoH official told Muscat Daily.

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