Following months of trials, dozens of announcements, and a global scramble to come up with a vaccine, the long awaited medicine is finally in Qatar.
Qatar finally received the potentially life-saving Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines on Monday after countries around the world authorised its usage. The first set of people in Qatar to receive the injections are expected to do so on Wednesday.
In a press conference held just hours ahead of the vaccine’s arrival, health officials released more information regarding the distribution process and the people eligible for the first round of vaccinations.
According to local health officials, three different groups will receive the first batch of the vaccines starting from Wednesday: seniors above 70 years of age, people with chronic illnesses who are 16 years old or above, and frontline workers in the health sector.
Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation [HMC], said that he will be taking the vaccine himself with his fellow colleagues working on the frontline in Qatar’s health sector, a sign that officials in Doha are confident that the vaccine is safe.
The first phase of the vaccine distribution which begins on December 23rd and will run until January the 31st, 2021, will focus on the above three categories deemed to be most vulnerable, this officials say is due to the limited number of shots currently available around the world. However Qatar has signed several deals, including ones with other vaccine producers like Moderna and Oxford-Astrazenica to provide enough vaccines shots for everyone living in the country.
Dr. Mariam Alabdulmalik, Managing Director of the Primary Health Care Corporation, added that those eligible for the first batch of the COVID-19 shots will be informed about their vaccine appointments through a text message and phone call from the Primary Health Care Cooperation [PHCC].
When the vaccine recipients arrive at their local health centres, doctors will be checking their vital signs and health status for clearance purposes. Once they receive the jabs, they will receive a card stating that they have been vaccinated along with the date and health centre where they received it.
Following the first vaccination, recipients will be scheduled to receive their next dose and will be reminded about their second appointment through another text message. Health officials warned that missing the next dose, which should be taken 21 days after the first, will affect their immunisation process and the effectiveness of the vaccine, despite immunity developing a week after the initial injection.
According to health officials, the vaccine is voluntary and will be available at seven different health centres in different areas across Qatar, including: Al Wajba, Leabaib, Al Ruwais, Umm Salal, Rawdat Al Khail, Al Thumama, and Muaither.
Last month, US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech announced the-long-awaited coronavirus vaccine was more than 94% effective in preventing COVID-19 among those without evidence of prior infection.
The manufacturers said that vaccinated individuals and those who received a placebo indicated an efficacy rate of 90% and above at seven days after the second dose.
Qatar is also set to receive vaccines from US-based drug manufacturer, Moderna, which says its vaccine has a 94.5% effectiveness as well as the Oxford vaccines.
This week, and for the first time since June, the total number of active coronavirus cases in Qatar has gone below 2,000— a result of cross-community and governmental effort to maintain the virus and return to normality.
Not only that, but the number of reported daily cases has also been steadily decreasing, with the ministry reporting under 200 cases daily.
On Monday, Qatar recorded 158 new cases of coronavirus and 203 recoveries in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of people recovered to 139,927.
More than 1,000,000 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in Qatar since the beginning of the outbreak, which experts say has contributed massively to the country’s success in managing the pandemic.