(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Senior health officials will get the first shots of the H1N1 vaccine today, marking the official launch of the vaccine in Qatar.
Qatar has just received the first consignment of 20,000 doses of the vaccine.
Dr Mohammed Al Thani, director of the Public Health Department at the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) and Dr Abdul Latheef Al Khal, Head of the Communicable Diseases Section at the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) will be among those to be administered the vaccine at a function being held at the SCH premises this morning.
This symbolic gesture by senior health officials would give more credence to their claims regarding the safety of the vaccine and help reduce fears among the public about the possible side effects.
SCH had said that Haj pilgrims would be given priority while administering the vaccine. Other vulnerable sections such as health care workers, young children, pregnant women and the elderly will be considered in the next phase. More stocks of the vaccine are expected in the coming weeks.
A senior SCH official told this newspaper yesterday that the vaccine would not be made mandatory even for Haj pilgrims.
"Qatar is one of the few countries that has made the vaccine available to the Haj pilgrims. However, we can not force any one to take it. There are many pilgrims who insist for the vaccine before their departure to Saudi Arabia, and there may be pilgrims who don't want it," said the official.
The vaccine that Qatar has imported was manufactured by the reputed international pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Kline. The product was endorsed by the World Health Organisation, the European Medicines Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in the US, said the official.
The vaccine was tested in human being and no major side effects were detected, he added.