Qatar advances negotiations with multinational pharmaceutical companies ahead of the release of the long-awaited vaccine and warns of upcoming seasonal flu.
Doha has edged closer in negotiations with key global pharmaceuticals to provide citizens in the country with a vaccine once it is ready for release, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said.
“I am delighted to announce that the Ministry of Public Health has already signed an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech to supply Qatar with their BNT162 mRNA-based candidate vaccine against SARS-CoV-2,” said Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation.
Dr. Al Khal added that the vaccine is still in the process of undergoing clinical trials and will only be distributed once all necessary regulatory approvals have been given. According to the Qatari official, the vaccine is expected to be ready by 2021.
“Our agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech is one of the options to help address the threat of this global pandemic in Qatar, but in the interim period while no approved vaccine is available, I would like to remind people of the need to follow the preventive measures and stay safe until such a vaccine is available,” said Dr. Al Khal.
The leading health official described the country’s comprehensive strategy to protect the population from COVID-19 as effective, saying Qatar has successfully managed to control the pandemic while also having one of the world’s lowest coronavirus mortality rates.
The sentiments were shared by the World Health Organisation [WHO], which recently praised the country’s efforts in controlling the spread of the coronavirus and mortality rate, describing it as a “distinct model for global emulation”.
Despite the positive outlook, Dr. Al Khal says it is far from over.
“Yet despite our success in controlling the spread of the virus it is clear that Qatar, like other countries around the world, will be living with COVID-19 for some time to come,” said Dr. Al Khal.
He also warned of the expected annual seasonal influenza, advising residents arounds the country to get the free flu vaccine to ensure the protection of those vulnerable to coronavirus, inclduing people with chronic conditions and the elderly.
“In the coming days the Ministry of Public Health will be launching its flu vaccination campaign, providing free flu vaccines for all citizens and residents. Priority will be given to vulnerable people at high risk of developing flu complications such as older people and children below 5 years old, as well as patients with chronic diseases at any age. I urge everyone, especially those at most risk, to take the flu vaccine this year,” said Dr. Al Khal.
Dr. Al Khal also reiterated the importance of abiding by the preventive measures in place, including wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distancing and limiting gatherings – all of which have played a key role in curbing the spread of the disease.
“Only when we have an effective vaccine will we be able to fully return towards normal life,” he added.