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MOH Launches National Campaign for Immunization against COVID-19

MOH Launches National Campaign for Immunization against COVID-19

MOH Launches National Campaign for Immunization against COVID-19


The Minister of Health H.E. Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Saidi launched today (Sunday) the National Campaign for Immunization against COVID-19 under the theme (Immunization is a Prevention) at Al Seeb Specialized Polyclinic with the presence of their Excellencies Undersecretaries as well healthcare workers. 

The Health Minister was the first person to be vaccinated in the launching of the National Campaign followed by the Representative of World Health Organization in Oman H.E. Dr. John Jabbour, as well number of healthcare workers and members of the community.

In this regard, the Minister of Health stated that the first batch of the vaccine arrived on 24th of December included (15,600) doses, and around (28,000) doses are expected to arrive by upcoming January. Other shipments will be received gradually. As for this vaccine, two doses are required, to be administered 21 days apart, therefore, the first batch will be administered to (7,500) persons.

The health minister affirmed that the vaccine has been distributed to all the Sultanate Governorates and shall be rolled out as per the priorities established by the technical team.

In the launching ceremony, MOH’s Undersecretary for Health Affairs H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al Hosni confirmed a working group specialized in vaccines field, which was formed by a ministerial decision, selected the vaccines in accordance with systematic scientific bases.

 Health Affairs Undersecretary pointed out the efforts of the Ministry in providing COVID-19 vaccine where it has cooperated with several vaccine-manufacturing companies and joined the Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance). He explained that the supply of the vaccine will be in batches, already started at the end of last week and will continue until the end of coming year (2021) due to vaccines’ manufacturing conditions and global demand.  

Al Hosni added that prior to the provision of the vaccine, the population group that must be vaccinated was approved and priority groups for immunization was identified to prevent the spread of Covid-19 virus disease.

The WHO Representative in Oman H.E. Dr. John Jabbour, who was the second one to take the vaccine, pointed out that taking the vaccine after His Excellency the Health Minister is a confirmation on the safety of the vaccine.  

Vaccination will be in two stages. The technical team identified the target groups for taking the vaccine in the first phase. The target groups in community include:

  1.  the elderly of 65 years of age and above with diabetes,

  2.  people with kidney failure and who are on dialysis,

  3. And those with chronic lung diseases namely:

  •  The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Syndrome (COPD),

  • asthma (with the severity of the disease varies between medium and high),

  •  Interstitial lung disease (ILD).

As for the target groups of health care workers include:

  1. the ICU staff,

  2. staff working in Covid-19 wards

  3. employees who have any of the following: diabetes, obesity (BMI more than or equal to 40), being on dialysis, chronic lung disease as detailed in the target groups in community

Given the urgent need for COVID-19 vaccines, unprecedented financial investments and scientific collaborations, some of the steps in the research and development process have been conducting in parallel, while still maintaining strict clinical and safety standards.

On the vaccine side effects, Dr. Saif Al Abri, Director General of Disease Control and Surveillance clarified that symptoms associated with taking the vaccine range from local pain, redness and swelling at injection site to fever, which are the same symptoms associated with taking any other vaccine. Some other side effects have been recorded in low proportions such as sore throat, nausea, joint pain and general fatigue, which indicates that the body's immune system is beginning to respond to the vaccine. No serious side effects were recorded during the clinical trial phase.

Dr. Saif Al Abri, Director General of Disease Control and Surveillance affirmed that getting the vaccine would not cancel the need of other preventive measures. It will be complementary to other preventive measures as vaccine will not target all of the population at once; hence, there will always be a high-risk people around us who could get the infection unless we comply with preventive measures. In addition, the vaccine will mitigate disease complications while preventive measures will continue to reduce the potential of infection transmission to the person.

With regard to the vaccination process, Dr. Al Abri pointed out that a person should show a quick response and go to the health institution as soon as is notified to be among the vaccine target group along with committing to take the second dose of the vaccine 21 days after the first dose, in order to obtain the desired efficacy, as a single dose of the vaccine is considered ineffective.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the effect of the vaccine begins 7 days after the second dose is taken. Before that period, the person is still susceptible to infection and should go to the health institution for evaluation if any symptoms of the disease appear.

 The Director General of Disease Control and Surveillance emphasized the necessity of adhering to other preventive measures such as hand washing, wearing mask and physical distancing after taking the vaccine doses, as taking the vaccine will not cancel the need for these measures. In addition, people should pay no attention to rumors and take information about the vaccine from reliable official sources.

The Ministry of Health affirmed that the vaccine will not be mandatory. Taking the vaccine will be based on the conviction of individuals in the community about the importance of taking the vaccine that will be supported by awareness and the promotion of a sense of responsibility and national duty.

With the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges it has imposed, the non-pharmacological interventions such as social distancing and closures of activities and border crossings have become a major challenge for governments and individuals. Hence, solutions have been limited to strengthening preventive measures among community members, institutions and public places (e.g. commitment to physical distancing, wearing mask, hand washing) as well as the provision of effective vaccine to prevent Covid-19.

MOH’s efforts to provide covid-19 vaccine

As part of Oman's efforts to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, one of its top priorities was to ensure that Oman receives its share of the Covid-19 vaccine through following deliberate steps. Most important of which is the formation of a working group headed MOH’s Undersecretary of Health Affairs , with the membership of Director General of Disease Control and Surveillance,  the Director General of Medical Supplies, Director General of Primary Health Care, and the Director General of Pharmaceutical Affairs and Drug Control, in addition to the Director of Communicable Diseases of the DGDCS.

 the Ministerial Decision No.120/2020 stipulated that the working group specializes in following up global developments in the field of manufacturing and production of coronavirus vaccine, and developing mechanisms to obtain the appropriate vaccine in coordination with and following-up the Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the World Health Organization, and the specialized companies. Experts and specialists may be involved in the work of the team, provided that the team leader submits a report on the recommendations that he concludes regarding selecting the appropriate vaccine from among the vaccines produced globally.

Dr. Al Abri pointed out that in order to ensure that Oman receives the required quantities, several negotiating channels have been opened with GAVI, and others through direct negotiations with several manufacturers of the Covid-19 vaccine. In addition, priority groups for immunization were identified based on the recommendations of international organizations, considering some local studies that highlighted the prevalence of the disease in Oman and the most vulnerable groups to the disease. Efforts were further made in preparing the national distribution and vaccination plan for the Covid-19 vaccine and developing the guide for the implementation of the national immunization campaign against Covid-19, and emphasizing the readiness of institutions and individuals to receive and distribute the vaccine to the target groups on the specified time.

Prior to receiving the vaccine, several steps were taken such as conducting a survey to assess community awareness, attitudes and practices related to COVID-19 vaccine in Oman.  In addition, an electronic mechanism through Tarrasud+ and Al shifa programs was developed  to follow up the process of administering the vaccine and follow up the people receiving it afterwards in all the specified public and private health institutions. E-notification system was prepared to report any post-vaccination side effects if experienced. 

Several meetings were held at various levels, including a meeting of His Excellency Dr. Ahmed Al Saidi, Minister of Health with the directors general of all governorates to discuss what was prepared and the operational plan, in addition to meeting with the directors of the communicable diseases control and immunization supervisors of the governorates.

Moreover, training workshops for all partners involved in the implementation process and following-up the progress of all plans were conducted.

 Furthermore, an intensive media plan was prepared by COVID-19 media team in order to raise the level of public awareness to the vaccine and respond to misinformation and rumors.

For the effective management of vaccines and ensuring their quality, safety, and security from any loss or damage since the shipment of the vaccine from the origin country to receiving it, refrigerators with special specifications to store the vaccine have been provided. The Ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer stores the vaccine at -80°C to maintain the quality of the vaccine as per the manufacturer recommended standards.

Readiness of all governorates and the concerned authorities were also confirmed to provide the necessary logistical materials to implement the national campaign for immunization against COVID-19.

Notably and as part of the Ministry’s efforts to facilitate and accelerate the provision of the vaccine in the Sultanate for emergency use according to its approved policies, the Directorate General of Pharmaceutical Affairs & Drug Control (DGPADC) has issued in December a permit to import the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine for emergency use against COVID-19 for the age group of 16 years and above.

The DGPADC evaluated the efficacy and safety studies submitted by the Pfizer/ BioNTech Company upon its receipt on November 26, 2020, and have reached an outcome that the known and potential benefits of the vaccine exceeded the expected risks and after the vaccine was approved by the health authorities in the United Kingdom, Canada and U.S. Food & Drug Administration.  The vaccine is given in two doses, by three weeks apart. The submitted studies included the safety data of the clinical studies that have been conducted on 38,000 participants. The participants had been followed and the side effects of the vaccine have been monitored for two months after receiving the second dose. The most common side effects were the same side effects associated with any other known vaccine.