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Friday, March 5, 2021

Criticism over Qatar’s ‘slow paced’ vaccine campaign

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As Qatar’s vaccination campaign ensues, just over 17,000 jabs have been administered since the first batch arrived in December.

More than 17,000 Covid-19 vaccinations have been given to residents and citizens of Qatar since the inoculation programme was rolled out last month, according to official figures.

Some 15,577 vaccines were administered to those with priority qualifications, while 1,738 vaccines were provided healthcare workers, Director of Health Protection at PHCC Dr. Khalid Awad told Al Sharq.

The health expert said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – the only one to arrive in Qatar thus far – is being being administered to at least 1,000 daily, however based on the total figure given, that number appears to be closer to just 600.

Qatar launched its vaccine programme on December 23.

[Doha News]
In comparison, Bahrain has set a goal of 10,000 persons daily, and aims to vaccinate 1.5 million out of its 1.7 million population within the next 300 days, according to Gulf News.

Both Qatar and Bahrain are offering the vaccine at 27 health centres.

Meanwhile, Singapore – not so dissimilar in size to Qatar – has also set a goal to have the vaccine available to its entire population of 5.7 million persons by the third quarter of 2021, according to Reuters. So far, 6,200 people have received the first dose of the vaccine.

The comparatively slower pace in Qatar has led to some criticism, with residents questioning why the number of administered vaccines is low.

Hamad Lahdan al-Muhannadi, a Qatari civil engineer with a substantial social media presence, took aim at the low numbers.

“I think there is a lag in the vaccination programme. It’s been a month and we are still at the ‘over 60 threshold’,” he tweeted to more than 200,000 followers.

Responding to the post, another social media user said “in Gulf states, citizens are able to call for a next day appointment and can even choose the type of vaccination.”

One Twitter user also doubled down on the criticism.

“The vaccination process is very slow, and the reason is due to a limited number of centres,” he said, suggesting Qatar does not have many over 60 year olds to justify the length it has taken to complete this group.
“The ministry is still asleep.. other countries have completed more than a million vaccinations in one month,” he said.

A school staff member who spoke to Doha News noted a slower pace could mean different things for different people.

“It’s probably better for health care workers who already have a lot on their plates, but i would imagine there are also many people who need to take the vaccine who aren’t considered a priority at the moment,” she said.

However, some have deemed the slow-moving programme to be a necessary and calculated strategy.

“I think the number of vaccines administered so far is reasonable because the virus is currently contained. In fact, I’d say it’s clever to adopt a more moderate pace because it gives them the time to see major side effects rather than rush through the numbers. Until we can be sure of what the outcome of the vaccine is, it’s wise to take it easy and slowly,” one teacher told Doha News.

“If Qatar was overwhelmed with the number of cases then it would make sense, but at the moment it seems to be at a ready pace and the infection rate is controlled,” she added.

While the vaccination effort continues, Qatar has moved into its second priority group for those eligible to receive the dose. These groups are determined by the level of potential risk, and are to be vaccinated in stages throughout the year.

The first group to receive the vaccine comprised of those over 70, healthcare workers, and those with chronic illnesses. Since then, authorities have lowered the threshold for those wanting to take the vaccine to those above the age of 60.

The Ministry of Public Health confirmed a vaccination certificate will be provided 7 days after a person receives both doses.

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Earlier this week, the health ministry launched a new website vaccination registration process for residents and citizens of Qatar, allowing priority groups who qualify for the vaccine to register for an appointment online. The hope is that online registration together with an increase in vaccination centres, will ramp up the daily number of vaccines being administered. One source told Doha News that authorities are eyeing a 30,000 weekly vaccination target.

So far, Qatar has only received shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, however doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive in Doha within the coming weeks.


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