Omanis and residents over the age of 18 in Musandam are now eligible for a free Covid-19 vaccine, the sultanate’s Ministry of Health said on Sunday.
The isolated province is the first in Oman to permit those under the age of 60 to be immunised.
“The choice was due to the geographical distance and the large-scale movement of people from the governorate,” Oman News Agency reported Health Minister Dr Ahmed Al Saeedi as saying.
He said the campaign in Musandam aims to vaccinate 16,500 people, but did not give a time frame.
More than 2,000 people over the age of 60 have been immunised in Musandam so far, the ministry said.
Residents as well as Omanis will be offered the vaccine free of charge. In the rest of the country, non-citizens who wish to be inoculated must pay 25 rials ($65).
Musandam, which borders the UAE, has a smaller population than any other region of Oman.
In January, Oman started vaccination nationwide but only for the “target group” of people over 60 and those with underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable.
Residents in the capital Muscat questioned why people in Musandam should be given free vaccinations.
“I cannot understand why residents like us who are living in other areas of Oman other than Muscat do not get free vaccinations but only Musandam,” said Ajay Akash, 34, an Indian citizen living in the capital.
“We are all here in Oman for the same reason and we all should get the same treatment. It is unfair why residents in some parts of the country are seen as different.”
Omanis elsewhere in the sultanate expressed confusion at the decision.
“It is really beyond me for one area of Oman to be treated differently from the rest,” college student Ahmed Al Hajri, 23, from Muscat said.
“I am sure they have their own reasons to do that which is not known to us. But it is all for the good and I am sure the rest of the country will get their vaccinations for all groups and ages of people soon.”
But a government official said Musandam was not being treated differently.
“It is wrong to assume that Musandam is different from the rest of Oman in terms of Covid-19 vaccination,” the official said.
“The real reason is that the region is isolated and the population there is the lowest in the country. So it makes sense to start vaccination for people of all ages in a remote area with fewer people, including expatriates.”
The Ministry of Health reported 1,665 new infections of Covid-19 on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases registered in the Sultanate to 150,800.
Oman reported two Covid 19-related deaths on Sunday, taking the total death toll to 1,622. The number of patients to have recovered reached 139,100, or 93 per cent of the total cases reported.
Fifty-two people were admitted to hospital in the past 24 hours, taking the number of inpatients to 331, of whom 103 are in intensive care.