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COVAX Facility accepts Maldives' application to secure vaccines

Mariyam Malsa
10 December 2020, MVT 18:03
Health Emergency Operation Centre (HEOC)'s Spokesperson and Health Protection Agency (HPA)'s Medical Officer Dr Nazla Rafeeq. PHOTO: HEOC
Mariyam Malsa
10 December 2020, MVT 18:03

The government, on Thursday, revealed that the COVAX Facility, which aims to ensure rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, accepted Maldives' application.

Speaking at a press conference, Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC)'s Spokesperson and head of the National Vaccine programme Dr Nazla Rafeeq revealed that COVAX sent a document confirming that the facility had accepted the state's application to secure vaccines for 20 percent of the country's population.

In addition to the 20 percent granted for free under the arrangement, Dr Nazla assured that the government was working to purchase vaccines for the remaining section of the population via the COVAX Facility.

Co-led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), COVAX has a target to procure and deliver two billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021. This is intended to cover 20 percent of the populations of each participating country.

Maldives was listed among the 92 low and middle income countries eligible to access COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

Aiming to ensure rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, the COVAX AMC will partially cover the cost of vaccine procurement for the 92 countries, which include all economies with Gross National Income (GNI) per capita figures below USD 4,000 and other countries that qualify for assistance from World Bank International Development Association (IDA).

Dr Nazla went on to reveal that efforts to prepare for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines are proceeding swiftly as per a globally accredited framework.

According to the HEOC Spokesperson, a National Steering Committee is currently overseeing endeavours to procure vaccines, strengthen the cold chain system for storage as well as establish a system to manage the data of individuals to be vaccinated.

She also noted that the Maldives Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and the Committee on Adverse Events following Immunization were providing counsel to HPA amid the preparatory efforts, which are being conducted with the participation of stakeholders from health professions as well as health sectors.

Member of the Maldives Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and Chair of the Committee on Adverse Events following Immunization, Dr Nazla Mustafa, revealed that sections of the population were prioritised for vaccine administration with a focus on protecting individuals that face a higher risk of mortality from the virus, reducing the social and economic impact of the pandemic and supporting the continued provision of essential services.

Prioritization of COVID-19 vaccine administration

While vaccines from COVAX AMC are intended to cover 20 percent of the population, vaccine allocations for frontline health professionals and social workers would amount to three percent.

This includes doctors, nurses, health workers, laboratory technicians, receptionists, workers in laundry, cleaners, pharmacists, waste handlers, patient transport staff, sample collectors, RRT members, vaccinators and staff that perform funeral arrangements for COVID-19 patients.

The remaining 17 percent will be allocated for individuals at a high risk of developing complications such as people aged 50 and above.

Individuals below 50 will also receive the vaccine if they are cancer patients, immunocompromised, obese with a Body Mass Index above 40 or have diabetes mellitus.

Additionally, the 17 percent allocation will be counted with patients suffering from chronic kidney disease at stage three or above, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic lung disease including asthma, Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), cardiac failure, cardiomyopathy, severe congenital heart disease, as well as bedridden patients and caretakers.

Dr Nazla stated that other frontline essential workers and international travellers would also be prioritised during vaccination efforts.

This will include teachers, police officers, staff of the Maldives National Defence Force, frontline staff in the travel and tourism industry, waste management staff, crew members of sea transportation vehicles, public transport crew, staff of correctional facilities and other frontline workers employed in public areas.

Despite warning that vaccination could result in certain side effects, Dr Nazla assured that a system was already established to closely monitor such occurrences. She added that only vaccines accredited and licensed by WHO would be administered in Maldives.

According to population statistics from 2020 and projections for 2021, between 111,000 to 113,600 will represent 20 percent of the Maldivian population.

Maldives currently records a total of 13,274 virus cases of which 629 are active cases, in addition to 12,591 recoveries and 47 deaths.

During August, authorities tightened the safety measures implemented in the Greater Male' region, following an alarming upsurge of COVID-19 cases after the state initiated efforts to steer the country towards a 'new normal' with the phased easing of lockdown restrictions.

After a long period of recording over 100 daily cases, the numbers fell to two-digits during the most part of September. Throughout October the numbers had slipped further down below 50, with a few spikes on rare occasions, including the recent spikes as a result of four new virus clusters.

Within this same period, the number of recoveries saw a significant increase, bringing the number of recovered cases to over 93 percent.

Despite the sustained decrease in virus cases, HPA has renewed calls for citizens to adhere to protective measures to contain the spread of the virus, cautioning against a public sentiment that the outbreak has been “controlled”.

On March 12, WHO classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. To date, the new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 69.3 million people and claimed over 1.5 million lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 48 million people have recovered.