Updated 22 February, 2021
The United Arab Emirates kicked off its mass COVID-19 vaccination program in mid-December with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. By now, it has also approved three more vaccines for emergency use- Pfizer/BioNTech, Sputnik V, and the latest addition to the list, Oxford/AstraZeneca.
As the photos and videos of the first five Emiratis receiving the Pfizer vaccine surfaced on the internet, it gave a significant vote of confidence to the few million people of the UAE. From vaccine effectiveness to how you can register to secure your own jab, here is everything you need to know about the Pfizer vaccine in the UAE.
How does the Pfizer Vaccine work?
Among the available COVID-19 vaccines currently, 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 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:
- Joint pains
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.
However, significant concerns have been raised following Norway’s reports of the death of 29 elderly citizens with serious underlying conditions who died after receiving inoculations. Currently, the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is the only one available in Norway, hence “all deaths are thus linked to this vaccine,” according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency’s response to Bloomberg on Saturday.
On the other hand, a recent study of vaccinated individuals in Israel shows promising results for the vaccine. According to Israel’s Health Ministry, the risk of illness from Covid-19 dropped 95.8% among people who received both shots of Pfizer’s vaccine.
Pfizer Vaccine in the UAE
Dubai started its vaccination campaign on December 23 with Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which is the second in line in the gulf country after the Chinese firm Sinopharm’s inactivated virus vaccine candidate was approved earlier this month. Having been registered by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention, the Pfizer vaccine arrived at Dubai International Airport late at night on 21 December from Brussels.
Who will receive the Pfizer Vaccine in the UAE?
UAE’s vaccination drive is prioritizing certain groups of people during the current phase of mass distribution. Senior Emirati citizens and residents (aged 60 or above), people suffering from chronic diseases and those with disabilities, and frontline workers (both public and private sectors). And then, the rest of the public who wish to be vaccinated.
Pfizer vaccine campaign’s first phase targets the following:
- Emiratis and Dubai residents who are aged 60 years and above
- People who are 18 years and above, and suffer from chronic diseases
- People of determination
- Frontline workers.
People who had been infected with COVID-19 and recovered may not take the vaccine dose unless there’s a time period of three months between the date of vaccination and the date of infection. If you had received any kind of vaccination for some other disease such as influenza, you’ll need to wait for around 4 weeks before you can take the COVID-19 vaccine.
The following people are, however, not eligible for the Pfizer vaccine in the UAE:
- Children below 18 years
- Pregnant women
- Breast-feeding women
- Women trying to conceive
- People with compromised immunity
- People with allergic reactions to any kind of vaccine, food, medication
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
Where to get the Pfizer Vaccine in the UAE?
— هيئة الصحة بدبي (@DHA_Dubai) December 23, 2020
You can get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine across authorized vaccination centers in Dubai:
Za’abeel Health Center Google location
Al Mizhar Health Center Google location
Nad Al Hamar Health Center Google location
Al Barsha Health Centre Google location
Up-Town Occupational Health Screening Center Google location
Hatta Hospital Google location
In the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi, Sinopharm Vaccine is also being rolled out to the general public.
Registering for the jabs
Taking the Pfizer vaccine is voluntary (and NOT compulsory) in the UAE. To register for vaccination, you can simply download the Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) smartphone App, fill out the given registration form and book a date for the visit. You may also call the toll free number 800342 for securing the vaccination appointment.
Without a prior appointment, you won’t be allowed to take Pfizer vaccine jabs in Dubai. Please reach the vaccination center around 30 minutes prior to your scheduled time to avoid any hassle. Once your name is registered at the center, you will have to wait for some time in a designated hall before the medical staff takes your vitals statistics. Report any kind of allergies or medical history to them. You will also be required to sign a consent form before the vaccine is administered at the time you had chosen for.
Once the jab has been injected, you’ll be at the site for around 20 more minutes during which the staff will monitor any allergic reactions or side effects. If there’s nothing notable, you are free to leave. You will need to come back for the second dose after 3 weeks, the date and time of which will be texted to you.
How much is the price of Pfizer vaccine?
You can get the Pfizer vaccine in the UAE free of cost.
Latest Updates on the Pfizer Vaccine in the UAE
On February 16, Dubai received fresh shipments of the Pfizer vials and will be distributed amongst all the centres where the vaccine is administered free of cost to people. It will be prioritized for the elderly, those with chronic diseases, people of determination and those on the frontlines. It will be available to only those who have residency visas issued in Dubai.