The Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC), on Thursday, revealed that the vaccination programme in Maldives would be freely accessible for both Maldivians and work permit holders, as per the prioritisation guideline publicised earlier.
HEOC spokesperson Dr Nazla Rafeeq stated that vaccination was tentatively expected to commence within the first quarter of 2021.
She went to reveal that several institutions would be involved in the process of overseeing the vaccination effort, including the National COVID Vaccine Steering Committee, Maldives Technical Advisory Group on Immunization, National Immunization Program, National Multi-stakeholder Coordination Group and the Committee Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) as well as working groups on logistics, data management and communications.
Dr Nazla reiterated that efforts to prepare for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines are proceeding swiftly as per a globally accredited framework.
Earlier in December, the COVAX facility accepted Maldives' application to secure vaccines for 20 percent of the country's population.
Co-led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), COVAX aims to ensure rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.
The facility 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).
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.
The remaining 17 percent will be allocated for individuals at a high risk of developing complications such as people aged 50 and above.
Overall, prioritisation for the COVID-19 vaccine was finalised with consideration to 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.
According to population statistics from 2020 and projections for 2021, between 111,000 to 113,600 will represent 20 percent of the Maldivian population.
At present, Maldives records a total of 13,558 virus cases of which 492 are active cases, in addition to 13,011 recoveries and 48 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.
HPA recently eased several safety measures imposed to control the spread of COVID-19. These leniencies include the cancellation of the city-wide curfew over the greater Male’ region, the reduction of quarantine periods to 10 days as well as cancelling mandatory quarantine for locals returning to Maldives and for locals travelling to resorts.
Despite the aforementioned developments, the agency 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 79.7 million people and claimed over 1.7 million lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 56.1 million people have recovered.