All individuals who received the second Covid-19 vaccine dose at least six months ago are eligible for a booster shot.
Qatar has administered over 100,000 Covid-19 booster shots since authorities started rolling them out in September, new ministry statistics has shown.
To this date, the number of booster doses administered alone has reached 105,792, while the total number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered since the start of the vaccination campaign has reached 4,979,699 as of Tuesday.
The booster shot was approved by Qatar’s health ministry in late August, initially for those with immunodeficiency diseases, noting these individuals may not get the level of immunity from a two-dose vaccine series compared to people who are not immunocompromised.
The immune response of vulnerable individuals to the initial vaccine shots could have weakened over time, authorities previously said.
Shortly after in mid-September, the first phase of the booster programme kicked off and focused on specific groups, including those over 65 years of age and vulnerable people with chronic conditions that increase their risk of a severe Covid-19 infection, as well as frontline healthcare workers and other sectors.
Two months later, the ministry announced that all individuals who received the second Covid-19 vaccine dose at least six months ago are now eligible for a booster shot.
“All individuals who meet the new criteria are now eligible for the Covid-19 booster vaccine, regardless of age, and are encouraged not to delay their appointment to ensure they continue to have high levels of protection against Covid-19,” the ministry said in a statement.
What is a ‘booster shot’?
A Covid-19 booster shot is an additional third dose of a vaccine given to increase the anti-bodies after they begin to decrease over time.
The United State’s FDA has authorised, and Qatar’s CDC has approved, booster shots for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, along with a ‘mix-and-match’ approach that would allow people to choose a different vaccine for their booster than the one they started with.
Recent studies have shown that ‘mix and match’ regimens for Covid-19 vaccinations are safe and highly effective at preventing the virus – matching or even exceeding the performance of mRNA vaccines.
This means that those who received AstraZeneca or J&J abroad can have any of the booster shots available in Qatar.
In the wake of the ongoing spread of the virus in several countries around the world, health authorities are now urging those with plans to travel to register for the booster shot if they are eligible before departure.
“We advise the elderly, those with chronic diseases, immunodeficiency diseases, doctors, teachers, and the most vulnerable people by virtue of their job, to take the booster shot soon,” said head of vaccination at the ministry, Dr. Soha Al Bayat.
Qatar ‘free of Omicron variant’
Health authorities in Qatar reported earlier this week that no cases of the newly-identified coronavirus variant Omicron have been detected in the country as concerns over the new mutation continue to increase worldwide.
“In Qatar, we are tracking infected cases but so far no cases of new variant Omicron have been detected in the country,” Dr. Hamad Al Rumaihi, Director of the Department of Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) told Al Rayyan TV on Sunday.
However, preliminary data shows the new variant is “concerning” and could increase the risk of infection among people, the doctor added.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the new variant as a “variant of concern” and Qatar’s MoPH has urged those eligible for a Covid-19 booster shot to book in their appointment as soon as possible to ensure some protection against the virus.
The latest discovery of the new variant in South Africa has sparked fear across the world with WHO warning of a great number of mutations that pose a risk of reinfection.
“So far, over 10 countries have confirmed the cases of Omicron variant. It is expected that more cases will be detected in the coming period as the world has become a global village,” said the doctor, referring to the increase in movement worldwide that is expected to contribute to a potential surge in Covid-19 cases.
“The new Covid-19 variant emerged on November 11 with the scientific name of B.1.1.529 which was later renamed Omicron,” said Dr. Al Rumaihi.
“We have seen several countries around the world reimposing preventive measures due to the increase in positive cases of coronavirus as well as because of the new variant.”
Health experts earlier warned that the Omicron variant could be the strongest Covid-19 strain due to its large numbers of mutations.
Despite this, the situation in Qatar remains under control due to its high vaccination rate, the doctor said, noting this has greatly helped in containing the virus.
“Qatar is providing safe and effective vaccinations, and the efficiency of vaccination in terms of preventing severe complications and death reaches the highest 95%,” stressed Dr. Al Rumaihi.
So far, no serious side effects or complications have been reported due to the vaccination in Qatar.