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Updated 19 January 2021

Entering 2021, the small island state of Bahrain is still dealing with heavy Coronavirus caseloads. Despite having a small population of just around 1.7 million people, it reported more than 97,600 cases and 360 deaths.

However, Bahrain 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.

How does the Pfizer vaccine work?

Among the available COVID-19 vaccines, there are four distinct types, namely, whole virus (this can again be a weakened form or inactivated coronavirus), protein subunit, nucleic acid (RNA or DNA), and viral vector.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-29 vaccine BNT162b2 is a messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) vaccine meaning that the vaccine carries genetic instructions that help the recipient’s cells to produce protein pieces that trigger immune system response. The response is in form of the reproduction of millions of copies of spike protein which stimulates the making of antibodies.

This is the same spike protein that is available in the coronavirus and used to enter the cells in the human body. If a sufficient number of antibodies are produced in the human body with the mRNA vaccine, they will prevent the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 from proliferating, thus protecting the recipient from COVID-19.

How effective is the Pfizer vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine works best with two doses where the second one is registered 21 days after the first one. On administration of the first dose, the immune system is alerted, and post the second one, it gets a boost, thus providing the immunity to fight off the virus. Efficacy is 52% after the first dose and raises up to 95% after the second jab. So, it takes around four weeks to build immunity after the first dose (could happen earlier as well).

It is, however, not particularly known how long the vaccine immunity will last. Insights regarding the Pfizer COVID vaccine’s long term effects are clouded as trials weren’t set up to answer the same. CEO of BioNTech Sahin expects it to be months or possibly even years before the vaccine recipient becomes vulnerable to COVID-19 infection again. Eleanor Riley at the University of Edinburgh in the UK mentioned that we might have to resort to annual boosters.

It is also strongly recommended that you should complete the vaccine course i.e. take both the doses before you leave the city.

Are there any reported side effects?

As far as safety is concerned, the Pfizer vaccine has an overall great safety profile with its benefits outweigh the potential risks. Based on safety data collected from 37,586 participants enrolled in an ongoing phase 3 clinical trial, the most commonly reported side effect involves volunteers experiencing an injection site reaction (seen in almost 84% of those who received the vaccine).

So, if you are taking the vaccine, know that the injection site on your arm might hurt a little, show some redness, and get swollen a bit. You might also experience difficulties in moving your arm freely. Other known side effects of the Pfizer vaccine includes:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pains
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache

Severe reactions were rare with four cases of Bell’s palsy being reported during the trial. However, there is no clear evidence that the cause of this temporary paralysis was the vaccine. Adverse allergic reactions are also possible and hence those who experienced any major allergic reaction during the first dose of the vaccine are being advised not to take the second one.

Where and when to get the Pfizer shots in Bahrain?

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 the Pfizer vaccine 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 Pfizer Vaccine

According to the Health Ministry, the January shipment of the vaccine to Bahrain won’t reach in time and will have to be rescheduled, due to changes being introduced by Pfizer in its manufacturing with a view to increasing the production. However, this is not likely to affect the administration of second doses to citizens in the coming weeks, considering the scheduled dates and the quantities required.

A major challenge for the Pfizer shots in the Middle East is the weather. The vaccines need to be stored and shipped at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit), which is quite difficult to maintain in the hot climate of Bahrain.

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