Coronavirus: vaccinations could put Jordan in a 'good position' by next month

Vaccinating even a fraction of people would help roll back the pandemic in Jordan due to young population, health specialist says

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Jordan can expect a significant improvement in the coronavirus situation over the next month if vaccinations due to start on Wednesday are rolled out and the government does not rush to relax curfew measures, a public health sector veteran told The National.

Adel Belbeisi said that despite a surge of infections since October, a positive scenario could unfold once the government realises a short-term target of vaccinating one-fifth of its roughly 10 million people.

“If Jordan succeeds in vaccinating 20 per cent of the population we are in a good position,” said Mr Belbeisi, senior adviser at Global Health Development.

The international group is working with the Jordanian government to improve response to contagious diseases.

Mr Belbeisi, a physician and a former Jordanian health official, said vaccinations would help shield older more vulnerable segments of the population. Meanwhile, Jordan's very young population are thought to be less in need of a vaccine as studies show minors less at risk of catching or dying of the disease.

Mr Belbeisi said that up to 15 per cent of Jordan’s population of 10 million may have contracted the coronavirus already.

But with over half the population under 24 years old and most of them under 16, a relatively small proportion remain vulnerable to the pandemic, he added.

“If you look at the pandemic curve of the affected population, the infections are more in the 50 years and above range,” he said.

Jordan’s deaths from the coronavirus rose sharply in October after the government relaxed containment measures, forcing it to reimpose a curfew in November.

Officials say 200,000 people have registered on a government portal to take the vaccine, which was activated three weeks ago, well short of the 2 million-person vaccination target.

The latest health ministry data shows that more than 4,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Jordan, with among 308,000 recorded infections.

But officials say the rate of increase in coronavirus infections in Jordan has declined in the last few weeks.

Under the curfew, people have been ordered to stay home all day on Fridays and no one is allowed on the streets from midnight to 6 am during the rest of the week.

Schools are closed but the government has allowed restaurants and most businesses to remain open.

Dr Belbeisi said “very strict control measures” at the beginning of last year “avoided having a big number of cases”, but it was normal for infections to rise after these measures were relaxed in the summer.

“Jordan has been no different to the rest of the world,” he said.

Mr Belbeisi said Jordan has been preparing the logistics for over the month to distribute the vaccines, with help from Global Health Development as well as the United States Agency for International Development and other organisations.

“Once the epidemical situation is better and the vaccinations are going on, I think the control measures can be lessened,” he said.