Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi residents tell of receiving Sinopharm vaccine shot

Residents say there is huge demand for the vaccine and it’s difficult to get an appointment slot in December

The UAE has become one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population against Covid-19.

Jyoti Sharma, 40, and her husband Deepak Sharma, 43, were among those people who have made an early decision to take part in the national Covid-19 vaccination programme

They received the first of the two vaccine doses on December 7.

The Indian couple, who are now in India, said getting the Sinopharm vaccine was like any other shot and they have not felt any side effects since they took the first dose.

"I had to travel to India and was worried about getting the disease as there are so many cases there. So, I decided to take a shot. I feel a lot safer now," Ms Sharma told The National.

“The medics did a thorough check to ensure we didn’t have any health problems or diseases.

“We will come back for the second dose after 21 days and then the doctors will do a blood test to check antibodies."

Shalini Raghav, 37, and her husband, Ashish Raghav, 41, residents of Abu Dhabi, are booked to get the shot on Saturday.

“Our friends who have taken the shot told us not to worry and it’s absolutely safe; so that gives us confidence.

"We’ve been told that people need to take all precautions even after the vaccine. I’m hopeful we’ll become immune after the first dose,” said Ms Raghav.

“It will also make travelling to Dubai easier as we won’t need to take the test when returning to Abu Dhabi.

“My friends are trying to get an appointment but there are long waiting times now. One of my friends is booked to get the shot on January 3. She was on the Seha hotline for 30 minutes but finally got through.”

Abu Dhabi residents Maya Gupta and Vipin Gupta will get their first shot on January 5.

Fr Darick D’Souza, a priest at St Joseph Church in Abu Dhabi, volunteered for the vaccine trials before they were rolled out for public use.

He said taking the Sinopharm shot was the need of the hour to get back to normal.

“This is the hope for the normal to come back. It’s a positive sign. If vaccination begins, the new year is coming with new hope,” said the 41-year-old Abu Dhabi priest who has taken two shots of the vaccine and felt no side effects.

“If the vaccine has been passed for use, then people should not hesitate to take it if we want to come back to normal. We have to beat the virus.”

He is among thousands who participated in vaccine trials in the UAE.

Residents do not know if they were administered the vaccine or the placebo when they signed up for the trials.

His adviced parishioners to take the Sinopharm shot.

“The vaccines are for the good of the world,” said the priest.

“The government has studied this, it has been checked by scientists, so all precautions have been taken.”

The priest said the 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan from Northern Ireland who became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday was a model for all those who had doubts.

“Margaret Keenan really set an example for all of us. For a 90-year-old to take the challenge shows that we should not hesitate,” he said.

Abu Dhabi resident Cong Fei said it was natural for her as a Chinese resident to take the vaccine as she believed the inoculation was safe.

A priest explains why he has volunteered for the vaccine trials and what the country means to him. He hopes to be of service to the country during the worldwide trials that will save lives.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)


Fr Darick D’souza, in St.Joseph's Cathedral.

“All people should take the vaccine. It keeps you safe, your family safe and the world safe,” said the 28-year-old postdoctoral student in marine biology at the New York University Abu Dhabi.

“The vaccine is everyone’s hope. Without the vaccine we cannot travel, cannot go to work in other countries. With the vaccine this problem is solved, we don’t need to quarantine, we don’t need to worry about the virus.”

Ms Cong took two shots of the vaccine in August and September and did not have any side effects.

“I’m Chinese, this is tested in China so for me, it’s safe. That’s enough for me,” she said.

“Some people were surprised and they asked me how I felt after taking the shot. Some didn’t want to take it then because it was still in trials and said they would take it once it was available commercially. Now, people will start believing.”

Being part of the vaccine trials also allowed Ms Cong to travel freely between the Emirates without taking PCR tests to cross the Abu Dhabi border.

“I could go to Dubai and Sharjah after I took the vaccine without taking the test,” she said.

Ms Cong had four blood tests, received messages and calls to check on her health after she took the double dose.

Iman Bahou, a 34-year-old Jordanian marketing executive at Bareen International Hospital in Mohamed bin Zayed City, took the first dose of the vaccine in October and the second in November.

“I am extremely relieved that the vaccine has been approved by the health authorities in the UAE,” said Ms Bahou.

“I was very nervous when I took the vaccine but the doctors explained everything to me and helped me to relax.

“I knew they would not give me something unless it was effective and felt confident that I would be okay once I took it.”

The UAE officially registered China's Sinopharm vaccine for use after Phase 3 trials found it was 86 per cent effective against coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention on Wednesday said it had approved a request from the Chinese drugmaker for its Covid-19 vaccine "in a major step towards combating the global pandemic".

An analysis by the ministry and Department of Health Abu Dhabi also showed the vaccine to have a 99 per cent "seroconversion rate", which relates to how antibodies are built up, and 100 per cent effectiveness in "preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease".

"Furthermore, the analysis shows no serious safety concerns", it added.

The Sinopharm vaccine was widely trialled in the UAE in the summer in a campaign involving 31,000 volunteers, with smaller trials in Bahrain and Jordan.

It was granted emergency use status in the UAE in September and has since been given to front-line medical workers, government health officials, emergency service personnel, and a number of Cabinet ministers including Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.