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Updated 3 February 2021

Entering 2021, the small island state of Bahrain is still dealing with heavy Coronavirus caseloads. However, the country has been quite prompt in formulating its vaccination strategy, and by now, it has the third-highest rate of vaccinations per capita in the world so far.

Here is everything you need to know about the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bahrain.

How does the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine work?

The ChAdOx1 COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University in conjunction with the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca is based on the virus’s genetic instructions for building the spike protein, which are stored using double-stranded DNA.

In simpler terms, it is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus, called adenovirus, from chimpanzees and has been modified to look more like coronavirus. It requires two doses, given four weeks apart, to prime the immune system to fight off the coronavirus. The first jab prompts the immune system to start making antibodies while the second one strengthens the immune response, thus priming the body against coronavirus.

This vaccine is to be administered only to individuals above the age of 18 years, as its safety has not been assessed in children and teenagers.

How effective is it?

The peer-reviewed results of the Phase-III trials of the vaccine show that it is up to 90% effective. Out of the 11,636 adults who had volunteered for the trials, only 131 (1.1%) had symptomatic COVID-19 more than 14 days after receiving the second dose, indicating a vaccine efficacy of 70%.

The results also revealed that the vaccine was only 62% effective when participants were given two full doses, but its efficacy rose to 90% when a half dose followed by a full dose was administered.

Note that these figures are low when put up against the Pfizer shots, which have a 95% effectiveness. However, the trials of the two vaccines were conducted in different ways, so the results are not directly comparable.

Like other COVID-19 vaccines, there is still no evidence to suggest that the Oxford vaccine will not be effective against the new strain.

Does it have any side-effects?

The AstraZeneca vaccine does have a few side-effects, but they are mostly mild to moderate in nature. Over-the-counter pills or an appointment with a general physician are likely to resolve them in a few days after the inoculation.

They include tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling or bruising, feeling unwell, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, nausea, joint pain and muscle ache.

The vaccine might trigger allergic reactions like itchy skin rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue. So, if you have a history of allergies, it is advisable to consult with a doctor whether you should go ahead with the vaccination.

AstraZeneca vaccination in Bahrain

In late January, AstraZeneca became the third vaccine to be approved by the Health Ministry, following Sinopharm and Pfizer earlier in the month. Soon after, on 28 January, the Kingdom received its first shipment of the Covishield – AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India.

Where can I get the vaccine in Bahrain?

Covishield, along with the other approved vaccines, is available at the vaccination centres in the country. Inoculation facilities have been set up at the designated health centres in the country. The vaccine shots are administered to Bahraini residents and nationals between 8:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. through the week, including Fridays and Saturdays.

Bahrain has also launched mobile vaccination units making home visits for seniors and individuals with special needs. Those requiring this special assistance can make the request during registration (more on this below).

How much will it cost?

The inoculation is available free of charge to all Bahraini citizens and residents aged 18 years and above.

Registering for the jabs

The health ministry has streamlined the process of booking appointments through an online registration form. The form allows you to choose which type of vaccine you wish to be given. Once you have submitted the form, the authorities contact you with the appointment information.

You can also register for an appointment through ‘BeAware‘- the country’s COVID-19 app.

However, the ministry has also declared that appointments won’t be necessary at the designated residential health centres in the country.

Latest updates on the AstraZeneca vaccine

Preliminary research now shows that even a single dose of the vaccine gives protection against the virus for at least three months and reduces its transmission rate by 67%.

You can check the latest decisions taken by Bahrain’s government and health ministry here.