COVID-19 Booster Dose Highly Recommended Six Months After 2nd Dose: Health Minister

Dr Ahmed Mohammed Al Saeedi, the Minister of Health and member of the Supreme Committee tasked with dealing with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic addressed key points as the Sultanate enters the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The Minister, in his speech, affirmed the significance of two-dose vaccination recipients’ going from a third booster dose, which has so far been taken by 160,000 people, of whom a mere 10 per cent are Omani citizens.

He further pointed out that 96 per cent of all patients hospitalised with COVID-19 over the past few months missed the third booster dose (which means they received two doses or one dose or were 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 last evening [March 30, 2022] during the 29th press conference of the COVID-19 Supreme Committee, held at the Ministry of Education.

It was also revealed that the number of booked doses stood at 8,031,006 while the ministry received 7,544,929 and administered 6,997,913 doses.

The virus, as per Dr Al Saeedi, is still lurking, though its variants like Omicron are less severe, but more infectious, with some now 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 per cent after six months from the second dose.

Thanks to the globally acclaimed expanded immunization 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 per cent took the first dose, 89 per cent took the second and 39% per cent the third, said the minister.

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 per cent of the chronic disease segment during the peak of the pandemic, and we still have a strategic stock of life-saving medicines,” said Dr Al Saeedi.

The minister affirmed the PCR test is no longer a must for incoming travelers 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 reported in the Wilayat of Bausher, seven in the Wilayat of A’Seeb and two in the Wilayat of Al Amerat,” said the minister, adding that the virus of dengue fever, which is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

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

Speaking about the difference between schools and mosques is that the staff at schools can help manage things more easily than their counterparts at mosques, which are frequented by old aged people, said Dr Adil, noting that infection transfer is more probable at mosques.

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

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 embarked on the option of vaccinating children aged 5 to 11, hopefully by the beginning of next month, April.

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