Maldives make preparations for vaccine, steering committee formed

HPA epidemiologist Dr. Nazla Rafeeq at the National Emergency Operations Center press briefing. (Photo/NEOC)

Authorities in the Maldives are now making preparations for vaccination against COVID-19 with the formation of a national steering committee for the work. 

In a press conference last night, HEOC spokesperson Dr. Nazla Rafeeq said that a total of four vaccines effective against the virus have been observed. She said that it was expected that the Maldives would start receiving vaccines in the first quarter of 2021. Doses will be administered by the amount they are received. 

Dr. Nazla gave hope by saying that the government was making preparations for the work including the establishment of a storage facility, purchase of required equipment, and preparation of proposals for the Covax Facility. Categorization of those who are to be administered with the vaccine is also being prepared by the authorities. 

Dr. Nazla estimated that around 20 percent of the Maldivian population could receive the vaccine for free. 

Another outbreak could disrupt vaccination efforts

Health Emergency Operations Center official, Dr. Nazla Musthafa also warned the public to take caution to prevent another outbreak which could disrupt and distract resources from the vaccination efforts expected for next year. 

She went on to explain why the quarantine period of those traveling from the capital city Male’ was still required to complete 14 days in quarantine, despite the calls by the public to reduce the period. 

Dr. Nazla said that research has shown that those released after five days in quarantine had a 45 percent chance of contracting the virus while those released after seven days had a chance of 20 percent. Individuals released after 11 days still have a chance of three percent, according to the experts.

Dr. Nazla Mustafa, member of NEOC’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG), at a National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) press briefing. (Photo/NEOC)

14 days was the right number of days to accurately determine whether the individual is positive for the virus and Dr. Nazla noted that this was the reason why the period could not be reduced despite growing public outcry.

If a patient unknowingly positive for the virus is released, that patient could put the entire island or even multiple islands and atolls at risk of an outbreak. Dr. Nazla said that the atolls apart from the capital still did not have enough resources to fully treat such an outbreak if it occurs and that the other atolls in the nation needed to be protected.

“Those in Male’ City for a long time, may want conveniences in traveling to other islands. However, those islanders also have rights. We have to provide them with safety. Because the capacity of the health system there is not as good as Male’ City. Even now, non-COVID-19 treatments are barely provided.” said Dr. Nazla. 

Since the Maldives identified its first case of the virus back in March, the capital and most populous city, Male’ City has been hit hardest with the virus. The overwhelming majority of the virus cases identified in the country have come from the capital making it the epicenter of the outbreak. The capital has been under a strict no travel lockdown since April 15.