Updated 9 February 2021
Dubai and the other emirates have started COVID-19 inoculation drive, following the approval of the Sinopharm and Pfizer vaccines. As hundreds of eligible citizens and residents head to nearby vaccination centres, it is safe to say that this marks the beginning of the journey to a normal, post-COVID world.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was the latest one to get the go-ahead from the Emirati authorities. Here, we take a closer look at how the vaccine works, its efficacy and side effects, and its cost.
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 vaccine in the UAE
On Tuesday, 2 February 2021, the UAE has just received the first shipment of 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from the Serum Institute of India. It will soon be available for Emiratis across the country.
Where can I get the vaccine in UAE?
Following its first shipment, the UAE’s mass vaccination drive will soon be joined by the AstraZeneca vaccine. The current roster of vaccines includes the Sinopharm and Pfizer vaccines. Emiratis will be able to get the AstraZeneca jab at the One Central Vaccination Center at the Dubai World Trade Center.
Additionally, for those who are at the frontline and vital sectors (both public and private) the vaccine will also be available at the vaccination field center. Appointments for individuals in these two categories will be scheduled in coordination with the government departments and institutions they work for.
Who can get the AstraZeneca vaccine?
All Emiratis aged between 18 and 60 years can get the jab. People of determination and those with chronic diseases between the ages of 18 and 60 can also get the jab, provided they have a valid Dubai visa.
The vaccine won’t be available to the following groups yet:
• Pregnant women
• Nursing mothers
• People with immunodeficiency diseases
• Woman planning to become pregnant within the near future (3 months from taking the vaccine)
• Children under the age of 16 years
• People with severe allergic reaction to any component in the vaccine.
For 6 weeks, from 7 February to 21 March, all the vaccination centres in the UAE will be dedicated to senior citizens, individuals with chronic illnesses like heart problems, diabetes, and respiratory diseases, and the People of Determination.
Department of Health dedicates all Covid-19 vaccination centres in Abu Dhabi and other emirates to all citizens and residents who are senior citizens, people with chronic diseases, and People of Determination for six weeks starting 7 Feb. pic.twitter.com/EUlz06oizj
— مكتب أبوظبي الإعلامي (@admediaoffice) February 7, 2021
How can I register for the AstraZeneca jab?
To register yourself at the One Central Vaccination Centre, you must secure an appointment by contacting the DHA contact center at 800 342.
How much will it cost?
The AstraZeneca vaccine will be available at a much cheaper price than other vaccines. While Pfizer – BioNTech’s jabs cost around £15 per dose ($20) and Moderna’s are about £25 ($33), Oxford/AstraZeneca’s candidate will be priced at only around £3 ($4).
Thanks to Oxford’s established technology, the vaccine can be easily mass-produced. Moreover, AstraZeneca has pledged not to profit from it during the pandemic.
It needs to be noted that so far, vaccination programs using both Pfizer and Sinopharm in the UAE have been free of cost to the residents.