DUBAI (Reuters) – Fresh COVID-19 vaccine supplies are accelerating inoculations in Oman, which has had the slowest rollout in the Gulf due to procurement difficulties, a government health official said, as a surge in cases puts hospitals under pressure.
“The situation is now changing, we are regularly now receiving stocks of vaccine … the campaign again has started,” Zahir Ghassan al-Abri, of the General Directorate of Primary Health Care at Oman’s Ministry of Health, told Reuters.
Since it began vaccinating in May, Oman has given at least one dose to around 15% of the eligible population, said Abri. Ministry of health data on Tuesday shows 720,199 doses have been given in the country of around 4.5 million people, with 184,621 people having received two doses.
Reuters analysis, based on the number of vaccinations administered per total population assuming every person needs two doses, shows Oman to be lagging far behind its neighbours.
The United Arab Emirates’ more than 14 million administered doses is enough to have vaccinated about 72.6% of the country of around 9.8 million. Oman by comparison has administered enough to have vaccinated about 6.1% of the country.
Kuwait, which also experienced some procurement delays, has administered enough to have vaccinated about 21.6% of the country.
Abri said the slow campaign was due to supply difficulties.
“As with other countries the delivery of these vaccines has not been met through the agreed timeline for different reasons.”
Oman offers the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines. It has not approved the shot produced by China’s state-owned Sinopharm, which the UAE used in its early, rapid rollout after hosting Phase III clinical trials.
Asked whether Oman plans to introduce other vaccines, including Sinopharm, Abri said they would be considered as long as they met government standards.
“The strategy adopted by the ministry of health since the beginning is selecting vaccines based on reports of efficacy and safety, as approved by research and guidelines published by different international organisations.”
Cases in Oman have trended upwards since January, with a pronounced surge since a dip in early May.
It has recorded 242,723 cases and 2,626 deaths in total. On Thursday it reported 2,015 new cases.
Oman’s media this week said hospitals nationwide were straining under rising cases. A main field hospital in the capital Muscat was at more than 90% capacity, state media said.
Aiming to vaccinate everyone 12 and over by the end of the year, Oman will on Sunday offer shots to people over 45.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Giles Elgood)