The Health Emergency Operation Centre (HEOC) has announced that mass vaccination against COVID-19 will begin in the Maldives during the first quarter of 2021.
In a press conference held Thursday by HEOC, the centre’s Spokesperson Dr Nazla Rafeeq said the government is working to obtain the vaccines at the earliest. Dr. Nazla said the COVAX facility led by the World Health Organization (WHO), which works for global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, has accepted the Maldives’ application to receive vaccines, and has provided the letter of acceptance.
“The easiest route to obtain the safest and most effective vaccine is through the COVAX facility. The application submitted by the Maldives to receive the vaccine has been accepted by the facility,” said Nazla.
In this regard, while the Maldives is among the countries that qualify to receive free vaccines for 20 percent of the country’s population, work is underway to purchase more vaccines, said Nazla. However, the vaccine will be received over several rounds, she added.
During the same press conference, Dr. Nazla Mustafa who leads the vaccination program said while vaccines enough for 20 percent of the population will be soon received, a prioritization list for immunisation against COVID-19 has been prepared.
In this regard, the first category is frontline health and social care workers, who are directly and indirectly most at risk from the disease, followed by those at high risk of developing complications due to the infection. This includes people of age 50 and above, and those below the age of 50 with risk factors such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and immunocompromised patients.
Frontline health and social workers make up 3 percent of the population while those at high risk make up 17 percent of the population.
The third category listed in the prioritization list is those working in the frontline to provide necessary services. These include those working in fields such as airport services, public transport, security services and tourism field
Dr. Fathmath Nazla added that while the vaccines have to be stored at a specific temperature, arrangements are being made to develop the necessary conditions to store and deliver the vaccines. The work is being carried out under an international framework developed by the WHO, said Dr. Nazla.
The doctor further noted that although the vaccines that will be used in the Maldives would be declared as safe and effective by the WHO, and will decrease the chances of being infected, side effects due to the vaccine are still a possibility as with any other medication or vaccines.
Dr. Nazla advised the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing measures until a vaccine is obtained and inoculation is commenced.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has promised to provide vaccines to the entire population free of charge. The Maldives has recorded 13,274 cases of COVID-19 and 47 deaths until now. The number of active cases is currently 629.