Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Al Saeedi, Minister of Health and member of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has affirmed the significance of two-dose vaccination recipients going for a third booster dose, which has so far been taken by 160,000 people, of whom only 10 percent are Omani citizens.

The minister pointed out that 96 percent of the patients hospitalised with COVID-19 symptoms over the past few months were found to have missed the third booster dose (which means they received two doses or one dose or not vaccinated at all), and this underscores the great need to go for the booster dose in the Sultanate of Oman.

The minister made the statements yesterday during the 29th press conference of the COVID-19 Supreme Committee, held at the Ministry of Education.

Meanwhile, Dr. Adil Said Al Wahaibi, Director of Epidemiological Surveillance Department at the Ministry of Health, said that the ministry plans to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5 to 11 years and that 11 such vaccines have been approved.

Speaking about the difference between schools and mosques, he said the staff at schools can help manage things more easily than their counterparts at mosques, which are frequented by elderly people, said Dr. Adil, noting that probability of infections at mosques are greater.

Badr Saif Al Rawahi, Director of the Contagious Diseases Department at the Ministry of Health, said the ministry accessed 90 percent of the target segment (those above 12 years) and found that many needed to be inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines, which means we cannot claim to have accomplished our 100 percent vaccination goal.

Fourth booster dose

As for the fourth dose, a team has been tasked by the ministry to study the recommendations and priorities, said Al Rawahi, adding that the ministry is currently mulling the option of vaccinating children between 5 and 11 years.

The fourth booster dose is recommended, if need be, only for low-immunity segments, depending on the overall community immunity and the stability of the epidemiological situation, locally and abroad, said Al Rawahi.

The health minister also said that the number of booked doses stood at 8,031,006 while the ministry received 7,544,929 and administered 6,997,913 doses.

He affirmed that the virus is still lurking and though its variants like Omicron are less severe, they are more infectious, with some countries reporting alarming uptakes prompting new, stricter measures and other countries even endorsing a fourth dose (like the United States) for vulnerable people aged above 50.

The minister noted that research proved that immunity against COVID-19 for those who took two-dose vaccination dropped by 22 percent after six months of the second dose.

Vaccination percentages high

Thanks to the globally acclaimed expanded immunisation programme in Oman, the impact of the pandemic on the health sector in Oman is not as critical as is the case in some countries, said the minister, adding that vaccination percentages in Oman are among the highest in the world.

Among expatriates, 97 percent took the first dose, 89 percent took the second and 39 percent the third, said the minister.

No side-effects of vaccines

While no confirmed direct links have been established between COVID-19 vaccines and cardiac diseases, no serious side-effects have been detected among those who received the first or second dose in Oman, the minister observed.

“The manufacturing company took longer to supply the COVID-19 vaccine dedicated to children, and we hope to receive it within the first half of this year. We were able to deliver the drugs and services to 84 percent of the chronic disease segment during the peak of the pandemic and we still have a strategic stock of life-saving medicines, Dr. Ahmed further said.

The minister affirmed the PCR test is no longer a must for incoming travellers for work or tourism and that only personal cards are required for passage across the borders with GCC states.

“Unfortunately, some cases of dengue fever emerged over the past few weeks in the Governorate of Muscat, with 17 cases in the Wilayat of Bausher, 7 in the Wilayat of A’Seeb and 2 in the Wilayat of Al Amerat,” said the minister, adding that the virus of dengue fever is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

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