The first batch of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines landed in Dubai on Tuesday night, December 22. The batch was shipped from Brussels on an Emirates SkyCargo flight following the announcement of the emergency registration of the vaccine by the Ministry of Health late on Tuesday.
As tweeted by the Dubai Media Office, the Dubai Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management is set to begin an “extensive vaccination campaign against Covid-19” on Wednesday, December 23. Also, the city’s media office reported that the vaccine is free of charge.
In the Phase I of the inoculation campaign, senior citizens, individuals suffering from chronic illness and aged above 18, and frontline health workers are only said to receive the vaccine.
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is described to be 95% effective in preventing Covid-19, was developed by US pharma company Pfizer and the German biotech company BioNTech. It is an mRNA vaccine that helps to recognise the spiked protein on the surface of the virus. Furthermore, the vaccine also instructs cells on how to fight the virus when infected.
To maintain the structure of the mRNA, the vaccines must be kept at -70oC. Ultra-cold freezers are used to store the vaccines, but to ship the vaccines around the world requires some special methods.
The manufacturers have come up with a solution – Pfizer thermal shipper – approximately the size of a suitcase, which can be transported easily. A shipper consists of GPS temperature enabled trackers to monitor the location and the temperature of the vials and can store the vaccines for 10 days.
With maintaining the temperature, the thermal shippers can be opened twice a day for not more than 3 minutes. The vials, once taken out from the shipper, can be stored at refrigerator temperatures between 2oC to 8oC for five days.
The administration of the vaccine is conducted in two doses, separating the doses by 21 days.
The use of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine is authorized in the UK, US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
The US president-elect, Joe Biden, was vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine on Monday. Regarding it, he said, “I’m doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared when it’s available to take the vaccine. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Will the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine work against the new coronavirus variant?
Ugur Sahin, the founder of BioNTech, said, “We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant. But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine can also deal with the new virus variants.” Also, he added that they would know if the vaccine would immunise against the new strain within two weeks.
Furthermore, Emer Cooke, European Medicines Agency chief, said, “At this moment there is no evidence to suggest this vaccine will not work against the new variant.” The European Union approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday, December 21.