It has almost been 11 months since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a global pandemic back on March 11, 2020. The whole world, at present, is focused on rolling out the vaccines against Covid-19 and getting rid of the pandemic.
The United Arab Emirates is putting its efforts to get as many as its residents jabbed.
Over 3.5 million vaccine doses have been administered so far according to Dr. Seif Al Dhaheri, spokesperson for the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority. He revealed the data at a press briefing on Tuesday, February 2. The country plans to inoculate over half of its total population, which is estimated to be around 9.9 million, against the coronavirus in the first three months of this year.
Which Covid-19 vaccines are available in the UAE?
As of now, February 3, there are three vaccines – Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNtech and Sputnik V, approved in the UAE for use on eligible individuals against the Covid-19 virus, according to the UAE’s Government portal.
Besides, Dubai announced the arrival of the fourth vaccine – Oxford-AstraZeneca, just yesterday, February 2.
How do the Covid-19 vaccines work?
There are mainly four types of vaccines against Covid-19 which mostly differ in the method of exposure used.
- Whole Virus Vaccine:
Sinopharm and Sinovac are whole virus vaccines. They use weakened or deactivated pathogens that cause Covid-19, to develop immunity against the virus.
- RNA or mRNA Vaccine:
This type of vaccine consists of mRNA molecules that help to recognise the spiked protein on the surface of the virus. The mRNA instructs cells to produce antigens and triggers protective immunity.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are mRNA vaccines.
- Non-replicating Viral Vector Vaccine:
A viral vector vaccine uses a harmless version of the virus known as the vector to deliver genetic code to produce antigens so that it can trigger an immune response without causing disease.
Sputnik V and Oxford-AstraZeneca are viral vector-based vaccines.
- Protein Subunit Vaccine:
Novavax is a protein subunit vaccine. It contains purified and specific parts of a pathogen rather than the whole pathogen to trigger an immune response.
The vaccines rolled out in the UAE are based on the first three types.
How do you get vaccinated against Covid-19 in the UAE?
The vaccines against Covid-19 are available throughout the UAE, free of cost and on an optional basis after confirming that the person has no condition or symptom that is medically ineligible. Nursing mothers, pregnant women and children are excluded from the inoculation.
In order to get jabbed with one of the vaccines against Covid-19, you might have to book an appointment unless you fall under the following priority list:
- UAE nationals and their household workers
- Senior citizens and residents (those who are 60 years old and above)
- People of determination
- People with chronic diseases
- Workers in the health and education sectors
But, if you don’t qualify as described by the priority list mentioned above or if you are an ex-pat living in the UAE, you should book an appointment. The appointment can be booked with the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) and through the SEHA app which is available on App Store and Google Play. If you are based in Dubai, the booking can be done via the DHA app available in both Google and Apple app stores.
The details about the Covid-19 vaccination centers throughout the UAE, such as the name of the center, location, opening hours and phone number, can be learned by following this link of the official site of the Ministry of Health and Prevention.
Currently, there are four vaccines against Covid-19 available at several health centers including private hospitals across the emirates free of charge. You may choose the vaccine for you which depends on the availability and your location, however, the health officials say there is no such thing as “best vaccine” thus the officials urge on the fastest and easiest way of inoculation one can get.
The available Covid-19 vaccines in the emirates are discussed below:
China’s Sinopharm vaccine was approved by the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) on December 9, 2020, after running more than 30,000 trials and the imperative phase 3 tests and experiments.
The vaccine is 86% efficient against Covid-19 infection and has a 99% seroconversion rate of neutralising antibodies. According to MOHAP, the vaccine is 100% effective in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease.
Sinopharm vaccine requires two doses and the doses are separated by three to four weeks. The residents who are above the age of 18 and are medically advisable can take the jab. The vaccine is available throughout the UAE.
The first batch of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines got shipped to Dubai following the announcement of the emergency registration of the vaccine by the Ministry of Health on December 22, 2020. And on the next day, Dubai Health Authority started its free inoculation.
The pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is an mRNA vaccine developed by US pharma company Pfizer and the German biotech company BioNTech. The vaccine is assumed to be 95% effective in preventing Covid-19. The vaccine, however, demands a challenging storage maintaining -70oC in order to preserve the structure of mRNA.
The vaccine can be jabbed at the medically eligible candidates and the inoculation consists of two doses. The second dose is given after 21 days of the first jab.
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are available at the vaccination centers in Dubai.
Sputnik V Vaccine
Sputnik V is a viral vector vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology based in Russia. The vaccine was approved for use in the UAE by the Ministry of Health and Prevention on January 21, 2021. The vaccine is 91.4% effective against the coronavirus infection and has a 100% efficacy rate against severe cases of the disease.
On February 2, 2021, Dubai announced the arrival of the first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The India-made vaccine is also a viral vector vaccine and will be available for individuals from the age of 18 to 60 years. According to a article published by BBC, the effectiveness of the vaccine ranges from 62% to 90%
AstraZeneca vaccine will be available at the vaccination centers in Dubai. The information and booking of the vaccination can be received by contacting Dubai Health Authority via hotline and app.
Do the Covid-19 vaccines have any side effects?
So far, no significant side effects of the coronavirus vaccines have been reported. However, it should be noted that there are no drugs without a side effect.
After getting vaccinated with a coronavirus vaccine, some individuals may develop a mild fever, pain at the injection site and body ache.
Are all the approved vaccines effective against new Covid-19 variants?
The emerging numbers of coronavirus variants have made people wonder if the approved Covid-19 vaccines will work against the new variants. Some major coronavirus variants have been identified to have originated from the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
The experts expect most of the vaccines to work against the mutations, however, there may be some decrease in the vaccines’ efficacy.
- Sinopharm Vaccine:
The recent lab studies have shown Sinopharm vaccine triggered immunity against the new coronavirus variants including the mutated strain found in South Africa and the UK. “Data we have collected so far shows antibodies produced by our inactivated vaccines can cover all viruses isolated from different parts of the world,” said Yang Xiaoming, chairman of China National Biotec Group.
- Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine:
A study has revealed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine appears to be effective against the UK coronavirus variant, however, the results have not yet been peer-reviewed. On the other hand, preliminary data, which involves only a small number of patients and which is yet to be peer-reviewed, suggests the vaccine is less effective against the South African coronavirus variant.
At present, there are not many significant studies to explain the effectiveness of the viral vector vaccines – Sputnik V and Oxford-AstraZeneca. Also, there have not been large scale trials or significant studies to examine efficacy against the virus variant that originated in Brazil.
Though the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines against the new mutants is not confirmed, the experts suggest most of the approved vaccines should work against most of the variants. The variants have some changes in their spike protein, but not enough to make the vaccines not protective. Furthermore, the experts advise everyone to get jabbed as soon as possible to develop immunity against the coronavirus and to reduce the transmission of the virus significantly.