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Low-income workers desperate for vaccines, rue the high cost

21 Jun 2021 By ANIRBAN RAY

As the news of free vaccines only for Omanis aged 45 and older settles in, there is disappoint and concern among low-wage earners over affordability of the jabs available for RO22 at private hospitals. While vaccinating the entire population at the earliest is an urgent necessity to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the delay for some due to financial shortfalls will only result in a delay in return to normalcy. 

Robiullah Islam’s numbers aren’t adding up to include two doses of vaccine in his salary of RO110. “I have to manage my expenses here as well as support my large family back home. For me even RO10 matters a lot,” said the restaurant delivery boy from Bangladesh. 

Islam’s restaurant was closed for some months owing to the pandemic when he was without salary, compelling him to exhaust his savings. “I can’t get vaccinated. I can’t afford it.”

Barber Sami N (name changed on request) is in a similar situation. The number of customers in his shop has drastically reduced, owing to the fact that most were expatriates who left the country for good. “Of the remaining, many are wary of coming to saloons for fear of getting infected.”

He sees two-three customers a day, maybe five on Fridays. “In this situation, how can I spend on vaccines? The cost of two doses is more than what I earn even in a week.” 

Satish Nambiar, chairman of Indian Social Club, said he understands the situation and is seeking help. “Right now, we are vaccinating our members. We are looking at ways to assist the people; such a huge task needs funds. We request corporate houses to come together to help.” 

A senior member of the Bangladesh Social Club suggested a reduction in vaccine price. “If it’s say RO10, it will be better for all.” 

A senior member of the Pakistan Social Club informed that it is in talks with relevant authorities and awaiting instructions from the Ministry of Social Development. “We understand the problem for the blue-collar workers. As soon as we get instructions from the ministry, we will start vaccinating them,” he said.

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