Decision to limit vaccines for expats to private hospitals on payment raises questions
In response to concerns raised with regard to streamlining the ongoing National Immunisation Campaign against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has started an online appointment-based registration system. However, the decision to limit registrations to citizens has prompted questions as expatriates have now been left with no option but to pay for vaccines in private hospitals.
The ministry will start vaccinating individuals in the 45 + age group starting Sunday. In Muscat, one central vaccination centre has been set up at Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) for the governorate, except for the wilayat of Quriyat.
‘The ministry calls on the target group (over 45 years) to book appointments in advance through the mobile app Tarassud + or http://covid19. moh.gov.om before going to the approved immunisation centres in various governorates,’ MoH stated.
The decision to limit online registration to Omani citizens has come as a surprise to many expatriates who were waiting to get vaccinated in MoH’s immunisation programme.
Ahmed Ali, 48, an Egyptian expat working in the private sector, said, “I tried to register for vaccination. I was surprised that it’s only for Omanis. The Ministry of Health has confirmed that vaccination is free for target groups. I hope the ministry announces that vaccination of expats is the responsibility of their sponsors.’
For Manohar MK, a businessman based in Wadi Kabir, the high cost of vaccines is a worry. “Imagine a family of five members. And what will blue-collar workers do? Such rules are hurtful. Most neighbouring countries are giving vaccines irrespective of nationality.”
Mubarak Ahmed al Araimi, an entrepreneur, believes “everyone should be treated equally in this pandemic” and that expats shouldn’t be considered “a momentary labour force and employment policies should be reformed to support social inclusion”.
Araimi noted that expats work side by side with citizens. “If there’s discrimination in administration of vaccines, the risk of infections rising will remain.”
Ali al Sheyadi, a teacher, said that immunisation against COVID-19 must be free and available to everyone. “Expats are part of our society. If we vaccinate only Omanis, we will not be able to control the pandemic.”
Speaking to Muscat Daily, an MoH official said that the ministry has distributed vaccines in the private health sector “so expats should contact these institutions to book and pay for appointments for the vaccines. The ministry will continue to provide vaccines to private health institutions”.
Working hours for vaccination service at OCEC is 8am to 2pm on weekdays (confirmation of afternoon working hours is awaited). On weekends, the centre will remain open between 9am and 4pm. Al Sahel Health Centre in Quriyat will be open Sunday to Thursday, 8am to 2pm, while the drive-through service at Oman Automobile Association in Seeb has been suspended till further notice.
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