Updated: April 03, 2021 03:30 AM GMT
Brunei is launching its national vaccination program on Easter Saturday. (Photo: Wikipedia)
The Sultan of Brunei has received his country’s first Covid-19 vaccination as the country geared up for the rolling out of its national inoculation program.
The sultan received his first dose at the royal palace Istana Nurul Iman on April 1, according to Brunei's Ministry of Health.
He then consented for the national vaccination program to begin for the public on Easter Saturday.
The ministry said in an April 2 statement that Brunei had prepared for the implementation of the vaccination program by establishing a Covid-19 vaccine technical committee to study, review and evaluate the quality of available vaccines.
Brunei has granted special authorization for three vaccines: Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinopharm.
The ministry did not disclose which vaccine was given to 74-year-old Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
“With the commencement of the Covid-19 vaccination program, we will implement post-market surveillance and will actively continue to monitor the safety profile of vaccines,” the ministry said.
With a population of about 433,000, Brunei has emerged relatively unscathed from the pandemic with just 213 cases and three deaths.
The ministry said 72 imported cases had been confirmed since the last local infection case on May 6, 2020. Brunei had recorded 330 days without local infections.
Shortly after the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, the Brunei government initiated a four-stage de-escalation plan with a budget of US$10.5 million designed to meet viral outbreaks and emergencies.
Brunei received its first batch of the Sinopharm vaccine, donated by China, on Feb. 11 in what was described by Brunei and China as “an opportunity to promote bilateral ties and take China-ASEAN relations to a new level.”
The ministry said it had been reviewing its distribution program amid preparations to inoculate its people from the pandemic.
Under the phases outlined in Brunei's vaccination strategy, inoculations will be given to frontline workers in the first phase and will be subsequently extended to other groups, it added.
The Sultan of Brunei enjoys absolute power. He completed the country’s complete transition to a Saudi brand of Sharia law in April 2019, enabling religious authorities to inflict a raft of medieval punishments including amputations and death by stoning for capital crimes ranging from theft to homosexuality.
That outraged civil society around the world, inspiring boycotts of the royal family’s extensive business interests. Brunei once banned Christmas and now forces non-Islamic religions to seek permission before staging cultural festivities.