Oman’s discriminatory vaccine policies
Oman is the only GCC state that has excluded migrants in its free vaccination drive. Migrants comprise over 40% of the 5.2 million population of the Sultanate. Though the government has promised to vaccinate migrants, only a handful have received free vaccines and no timeline for expansion has been provided.
So far, regular migrants in Oman have had to vaccinate themselves in the private sector or according to the arrangements made by the businesses in which they work. The cost of two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for migrants in Oman is currently set at OMR 46 (USD 120).
According to sources, Oman recently made limited quantities of Sinovac vaccines available to both citizens and non-citizens free of charge, after the Sultanate received 100,000 doses of the vaccines from the Chinese government.
The Sinovac vaccine, which has been recently approved by the World's Health Organization, is currently not approved by other GCC states. The vaccine has also been called into question over its efficacy in providing immunity against Covid-19. On the other hand, the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines, which are approved by all GCC states, are provided free of charge only to Omani citizens.
Additionally, most instructions and posts regarding Covid-19 vaccination on Oman’s Health Ministry’s social media platforms are in Arabic and exclusively aimed at Omani citizens.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Health said that nearly 20 per cent of the target groups have been covered. He added that blue-collar and undocumented workers will be included in the drive soon, but no timeline has been announced. On Tuesday, the MoH announced that Omani nationals aged 18 and older can get vaccinated from Sunday 4 July.
The failure so far to include migrants in free vaccination is obstructing Oman’s ability to control the pandemic, which requires herd immunity that cannot be achieved without covering all vulnerable groups, regardless of nationality.
Even prior to the pandemic, healthcare costs for non-citizens were high in Oman, with only 10% of migrants covered by health insurance. It is of utmost urgency for the sultanate to provide better access to healthcare, including inclusion in mass vaccination.