*Vaccine for three priority groups initially
*Two doses 21 days apart
*Vaccination throughout 2021
Qatar will start the free vaccination drive against Covid-19 from Wednesday (December 23) at seven primary health centres for three priority groups, it was announced on Monday. The campaign will continue throughout 2021.
The first shipment of the approved Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine arrived last night at Hamad International Airport.
"People over 70 years of age, those with multiple chronic conditions, and key healthcare staff working in close contact with Covid-19 patients are the priority groups," a senior official of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said.
Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, was addressing a press conference on Qatar TV, along with Dr Hamad al-Rumaihi, director of the Health Protection and Communicable Diseases Control Department, MoPH, and Dr Mariam Abdulmalik, managing director, Primary Health Care Corporation.
"Qatar's strategy will enable everyone to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in 2021, but for now with a limited quantity of vaccines, we must prioritise people most at risk from severe complications and death from the virus," Dr al-Khal explained.
The MoPH's Department of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Control had approved on Sunday the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use.
"The vaccine, which comes in two doses and to be taken three weeks apart, has been proven safe and secure and passed all the necessary phases and procedures," Dr al-Khal reassured. Despite the speed at which the vaccine has been developed and tested, it has still followed a strict testing and approval process.
"Several countries around the world, including the UK, the US and Canada have already begun administering the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. There are only very rare and mild side effects. I myself will take the vaccine and highly recommend that those targeted should also take it as soon as available," he said.
The first shipment of Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine from Pfizer and Biotech has arrived in Qatar.
"Though the pandemic is still spreading and active globally with a second and third wave in many countries, in Qatar the situation is stable with only around 150 cases a day. However, the virus is still active and spreading and people should continue abiding by the preventive and precautionary measures," Dr al-Khal urged.
Dr Abdulmalik said the Covid-19 vaccine will be initially available at Al Wajba, Leabaib, Al Ruwais, Umm Slal, Rawdat Al Khail, Muaither, and Al Thumama primary health centres.
"Patients who have been selected for the vaccination will be contacted by phone/SMS and invited to attend an appointment at one of the seven designated health centres," she explained.
Dr al-Rumaihi reiterated that though the Covid-19 vaccination is voluntary, the vulnerable categories are strongly advised to take it. The widespread uptake of the vaccination throughout the population is the best hope of ending the pandemic and life returning to normal.
Dr al-Khal pointed out that most of the reported side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine are mild, such as headache, pain at the injection site, and mild temperature that could last up to three days if it happens.
"The Covid-19 vaccine has been given to thousands of people in the UK with very limited side effects other than the rare cases with hypersensitivity.
"Since the appearance of the novel coronavirus, it has had at least three genetic mutations, changing the way the disease spreads, but there is no evidence that the vaccine would not be effective in such cases," he said.
For more information, people can call the Covid-19 helpline on 16000.
The MoPH officials stated on Monday that the UK is not on the Covid-19 green list of low-risk countries and hence the standard procedure will apply for travellers from the UK.
Only 17 countries figure in the green list, as per the last revision which came into effect on December 18. All other travellers require hotel quarantine at their own expense for a week.