Qatar confronts Covid-19 with largest vaccination campaign in its history
May 31 2021 02:17 PM
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QNCC vaccination facility.
QNCC vaccination facility.

With the acceleration of the pace of vaccination programme against the Covid-19, the State of Qatar continues to fight the virus by implementing the largest vaccination campaign in its history for citizens and residents of the country, free of charge.

The State of Qatar ranks among the top ten countries in the world, compared to its population, and it is also among the countries that have the lowest death rates in the world due to the quality and excellence of the health care system in the country.

Nearly 9 out of 10 people over the age of 60 - which is the group most at risk of disease - received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, while nearly 8 out of 10 people in this group got both doses.

The number of vaccination doses that were given to citizens and residents of Qatar until mid-May 2021 exceeded two and a half million doses, while more than 1,170,000 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far, with about 35,000 doses during only 24 hours.

About 52 percent of the adult population in Qatar has received at least one dose of the vaccine so far, while 36.5% of the adult population has received both doses of the vaccine.

Vaccination against the virus is provided in Qatar through 35 centers, and some drive-through vaccination centers in specific areas, which cater for people receiving their second dose only, which helped expand and accelerate the vaccination campaign.

The State of Qatar was one of the first countries in launching the national vaccination program, as the vaccination campaign against the virus was launched in December 2020, after the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) approved the Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna vaccines for emergency use, which are the two vaccines that have proven safety and effectiveness.

Based on the belief that anti-Coronavirus vaccinations remain the most effective way to deal with the virus, as on May 17, 2021, the Ministry of Public Health launched a campaign to vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 15 with the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine.

The State also gave priority to vaccinating teachers, in order to ensure the continuation of the educational process and to ensure that students continue their usual course of lessons, especially through blended learning, which was largely applied during the second wave of the virus, as it combined distance learning with school attendance through the introduction of a specific intake of total capacity per educational facility.

The Ministry of Public Health has been able to give the Coronavirus vaccination to a large percentage of teachers and administrators in schools, as the State of Qatar is also one of the first countries to vaccinate educational and administrative cadres in schools.

The Ministry of Health also gave priority to health workers to take the vaccine, due to the important role they are entrusted with in providing treatment to patients and ensuring the progress of health care. The vaccine was also given to frontline workers in many ministries and state institutions.

In addition to the national program for vaccination against the virus, the State of Qatar has taken many preventive measures that have contributed to limiting the spread of the virus.

As a precautionary step, the Ministry of Public Health allocated four hospitals to treat those infected with the virus, in addition to allocating a field hospital, especially during the beginning of the first wave of the virus. It also adopted an effective program to examine people, detect infected cases and follow the transmission chains of the virus, which contributed to significantly reduce its spread.

By May 24, 2021, the number of people who were tested reached more than 1,990,000 people, while the number of daily tests to detect the virus reached about 15,000.

During the pandemic, the State of Qatar has implemented a comprehensive strategy to protect the population from the threat of Covid-19 and to provide high-quality health care services to all residents, free of charge.

Qatar has adopted a comprehensive approach at the level of all state institutions, while implementing effective governance policies, relying on science and facts, and engaging the public in addressing this pandemic.

The health system in the State of Qatar has demonstrated its resilience during this pandemic, as it has developed effective emergency preparedness plans and responded to this challenge with determination and commitment.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Ministry of Public Health has launched a special support and assistance hotline that provides inquiries and instructions about the virus, in addition to providing remote medical consultations services in many medical specialties.

The Ministry also provide mental health services, as it launched a support line dedicated to providing psychological counseling to people who feel anxious due to the current situation, especially for children, the elderly and healthcare workers.

In addition, MoPH in cooperation with the Hamad Medical Corporation and the Primary Health Care Corporation, launched a webpage for Covid-19 that provides the population with a reliable and accurate source of information about everything related to the virus.

The decisions taken in order to confront the Coronavirus were guided by the scientific approach and the evaluation of doctors, as innovative decisions were applied in the field of pandemic control in line with international practices and protocols, for example, the period of isolation of the infected, the time criteria for ending the isolation, and the use of the viral load to guide managing infected cases.

This scientific approach and optimal use of resources, along with research conducted by doctors and researchers in Qatar and published in prestigious scientific journals, has enabled local and international efforts to combat the virus, including researches that dealt with the effectiveness of the vaccine against new strains and the duration of immunity.

The strategic plan of the State of Qatar in response to Covid-19 pandemic has been extremely successful, as the continuation of vital facilities to operate has been harmonized with the imposition of flexible restrictions that have largely prevented the further spread of the virus.

During the first wave of the pandemic, Qatar, thanks to the preventive measures and restrictions imposed, was able to avoid recording one million additional virus infections among the population of Qatar, according to the Chair of the National Strategic Group on Covid-19.

In order not to harm the economic sectors as a result of the pandemic, the State of Qatar announced, during the first wave, a package of economic measures to support the private economic sector; the state announced a support package worth QR 75 billion to face the economic and financial repercussions on the business sector and this support continued, especially in the second wave.

The Ministry of Public Health has also launched EHTERAZ application on smartphones that has been developed to protect society from the spread of the Covid-19. The application tracks the transmission chains of the spread of the virus, provides users with accurate information and helps specialized medical teams to provide health care when needed. It also alerts community members if a case of Coronavirus is detected.

When registering in EHTERAZ application, the profile of each application is linked to the QR code by automatically extracting the user's health information from the official bodies according to categorizations, as the Green colour represents healthy individuals who do not have any symptoms, or who have tested negative, Yellow represents people who are in quarantine, Red represents people who have been tested positive for Covid-19, and Grey colour represents suspected cases, individuals who have symptoms, or who have been in contact with Covid-19 positive cases and are awaiting the results of the test. A new symbol has now been added, showing the Golden Frame around the QR code, which states that a person has received two doses of vaccination against the virus.

Meanwhile, the State of Qatar is implementing a successful travel and return policy to the country, with the aim of further addressing the Coronavirus pandemic. The travel and return policy includes the criteria for travel and entry into the country, as well as quarantine procedures for returning travelers, whether through a hotel or home quarantine to ensure that the virus is prevented from spreading, especially through travelers returning to the country.

 

According to the officials in the State's health sector, the quarantine policy applied in Qatar to all people returning from abroad is one of the most stringent quarantine policies in the world. This policy has proven its effectiveness in rapidly detecting and isolating the infected persons. This has contributed to delaying the arrival of new strains of the virus to the Qatari community.

Also, all travelers coming to the State of Qatar are currently required to undergo a Covid-19 examination at one of the health centers approved by the country of arrival within 72 hours before arriving in the State of Qatar, while travelers undergo repeated (Covid-19) tests before their exit from quarantine.

During the second wave of the pandemic, new cases of infection continued to decline at a steady pace, especially since mid-May 2021, as the number of daily infections in April 2021 exceeded 900, while the number currently does not exceed 300, thanks to the restrictions and procedures imposed in the country.

Officials at the Ministry of Public Health said that the decrease in the number of daily cases, as well as the decrease in the number of hospital admissions due to infection, is due to the expansion of the vaccination campaign against the virus, and the commitment of community members to the preventive measures and the application of the imposed restrictions.

Officials at the National Strategic Group on Covid-19 affirmed that there is clear evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting members of society from developing symptoms of Covid-19. The data recorded in Qatar until the end of April 2021 showed that only 1% of cases admitted to intensive care units due to infection with Covid-19 were for people who received two doses of the vaccine.

A research study conducted in the State of Qatar and published in April 2021 in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) showed that for people who received the full vaccination with the two doses and after 14 days of receiving the second dose, the vaccination was 89.5% effective in preventing infection with the British strain of the virus and by 75% in preventing infection with the South African strain of the virus.

The same study also showed that vaccination is 97.4% effective in preventing severe or critical illness or death due to infection with the British or South African strain of the virus.

These statistics and results are very promising and give great optimism towards returning to normal life in Qatar, once around 80% to 90% of the eligible population is vaccinated.

In addition to local efforts to address the virus, the State of Qatar has worked and continues to support countries and organizations in order to overcome this pandemic. Qatar has provided aids to dozens of countries to support their efforts to confront Covid-19 pandemic, and a contribution of $ 20 million has been allocated to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI). In addition, Qatar signed a Core Contribution Agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO) at an amount of $10 million to support the Organization's Thirteenth General Programme of Work (GPW 13) and the initiative to accelerate the availability of tools to combat Coronavirus in the country's most in need.

The State of Qatar believes that work to develop vaccines and treatment, as well as joint scientific cooperation, is pivotal in addressing this pandemic. (QNA)



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