KUWAIT: Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah yesterday said the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines will arrive at dawn today, and the vaccination process will begin at the weekend. According to a press statement by the health ministry, vaccinations will be held in four stages according to priority – first for healthcare workers, those above 65 years of age, frontliners and then the rest of the society. Sheikh Basel said 73,700 people have registered online to receive the vaccine, adding that inoculations will continue until everyone is vaccinated.

Member of the vaccine committee at the health ministry Khalid Al-Saeed had earlier said the first batch of coronavirus vaccines includes around 150,000 doses enough for 75,000 individuals, as each person will get two shots. About the vaccination process, he said messages will be sent to those who have registered, including the time they will receive the vaccine at the Mishref fairgrounds.

Kuwait yesterday reported 298 COVID-19 cases over a 24-hour period, taking the total number of infections to 148,507, while one death was recorded, raising the death toll to 923. Active cases amounted to 3,228, with 53 in intensive care units. Health authorities conducted 5,641 swab tests in 24 hours to take the total to 1,228,818. Earlier, the health ministry confirmed 214 fresh recovery cases, taking total recoveries to 144,356.

Elsewhere in the region, Qatar received its first novel coronavirus vaccines on Monday, just hours after regulators approved the jab for use in the Gulf state, which says it will inoculate all residents free of charge. A shipment of 14 boxes of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine landed at Doha’s Hamad International Airport aboard a Qatar Airways passenger Boeing 787 from Brussels shortly after 2000 GMT, according to AFP correspondents on site. Authorities have not said how many doses arrived in the first shipment.

Abdullatif Al-Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19, said during a speech on state TV Monday that vaccinations would begin from today. “The priority will be the elderly, those with chronic conditions and medical staff,” he said. Vaccinations will be administered on a voluntary basis and provided free of charge, he said.

Meanwhile, the co-founder of BioNTech said yesterday it was “highly likely” that its vaccine against the coronavirus works against the mutated strain detected in Britain, but it could also adapt the vaccine if necessary in six weeks. “Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant,” said Ugur Sahin.

But if needed, “in principle the beauty of the messenger technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation – we could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks”. Sahin said the variant detected in Britain has nine mutations, rather than just one as is usually common.

Nevertheless, he voiced confidence that the vaccine developed with Pfizer would be efficient because it “contains more than 1,000 amino acids, and only nine of them have changed, so that means 99 percent of the protein is still the same”. He said tests are being run on the variant, with results expected in two weeks. “We have scientific confidence that the vaccine might protect but we will only know it if the experiment is done… we will publish the data as soon as possible,” he added. – Agencies