Foreign travel, quarantine and PCR tests: what getting the Sinopharm vaccine means for Abu Dhabi residents

Vaccine safe to use because it is made from a killed version of the virus like the flu vaccine taken by tens of millions of people each year

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Anyone in Abu Dhabi can now sign up to take the Sinopharm vaccine to protect themselves against Covid-19.

The UAE approved the vaccine for public use on Wednesday after it was shown to be safe and highly effective in advanced trials.

People in all seven emirates can now receive the jab at clinics and hospitals.

The move ranks the country among the first in the world to approve a vaccine for public distribution, after the UK embarked on a mass vaccination campaign this week using the Pfizer shot.

But how effective is the vaccine available here?

And how can people living in Abu Dhabi sign up to take it?

The National explains.

Which vaccination is being offered in Abu Dhabi?

The vaccine has been developed by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company.

The shot entered late stage clinical trials in Abu Dhabi in July, after Phase 1 and 2 tests showed it generated neutralising antibodies in 100 per cent of volunteers.

Sinopharm has yet to officially release its Phase 3 findings.

But on Wednesday, health authorities in the UAE said the Phase 3 trial conducted here showed the vaccine was 86 per cent effective.

It also showed 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," the Ministry of Health said.

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

How does the 86 per cent efficacy compare with other vaccines to have announced results?

Favourably. Sinopharm’s 86 per cent efficacy compares well with the four other vaccines whose Phase 3 results have been published.

The US-German made Pfizer/BioNTech is 95 per cent effective, while the US-made Moderna is at 94 per cent.

Britain’s Oxford/AstraZeneca is at 70 per cent efficacy and Russia's Sputnik V at 95 per cent, although that is yet to be independently verified.

How is it made?

Unlike some of the other Covid-19 vaccines, including those made by Pfizer, which was manufactured using new technology that has not been approved before, the Sinopharm shot is made via a tried-and-tested process.

It is an inactivated vaccine, which uses a killed version of the virus that causes the illness.

It was made by isolating a strain of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, from a patient in the Jinyintan Hospital, Wuhan, China. That was then grown in a lab before being inactivated.

The flu vaccine, which is used by tens of millions of people each year, is manufactured the same way.

Jyoti Sharma, 40, and her husband Deepak Sharma, 43, did not experience any side effects after taking the first shot on December 7 and could easily travel to India. Courtesy: Jyoti Sharma

What are the other benefits of getting vaccinated?

Apart from protection against the virus, which makes one in five people seriously ill, UAE residents who have been vaccinated are not required to quarantine for 14 days on their return to Abu Dhabi from abroad.

The regulations, announced last month, apply after the first dose for those taking part in Phase 3 trials, and after the second dose for those taking part in the National Vaccination Programme, which is for the wider public launched this week.

All vaccinated residents travelling abroad are still required to take a PCR test before their flights.

Those who have been immunised under the National Vaccination Programme must take the nasal swab on arrival, in addition to the fourth and eighth days after they arrive in Abu Dhabi.

In addition, those who have had the vaccine do not need to take PCR and DPI tests when entering the capital’s borders from within the UAE.

But all residents who have been vaccinated must continue to take a PCR test every two weeks, under the guidelines.

Abu Dhabi routinely and regularly tests large numbers of people, with workplace screening in place at many government and private offices, as well as shops, hotels and restaurants. Being vaccinated does not exempt people from being screened.

How can people living in Abu Dhabi sign up to take the vaccine?

Appointments can be booked through a network of Abu Dhabi health centres and clinics run by the capital's public hospital group, Seha.

To book, call 80050. A pre-recorded message which plays before the main menu options offers residents the option to arrange an appointment.

The vaccine is administered in two shots, 21 days apart.

Are you prevented from travelling between shots?

No, but anyone who has had only one dose of the vaccine in the National Vaccine Programme must quarantine for 14 days on their return from abroad.

People who have had two doses under the programme do not have to quarantine if they go overseas for less than 14 days, but they must do so if their stay exceeds the period, according to the vaccination helpline.

They must also then be tested on arrival, in addition to the fourth and eighth days after they have landed, the customer service agent said.

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