20210325 covid-19 vaccine
Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The UAE has rolled out the vaccination campaign across the UAE, with Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP), Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, SEHA, and Dubai Health Authority (DHA) regularly raising awareness for the need to get vaccinated and how the vaccines work.

However, if you still have queries related to the COVID-19 vaccine, here is a list of all the frequently asked questions which health authorities have answered in the past few months.

Is COVID-19 vaccination optional or compulsory?

COVID-19 vaccination is optional.

What is the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine?

It is free of cost.

Where can I get the vaccine?

The vaccine is available across the UAE, at medical health centres operated by MOHAP, Seha and DHA.

How can I book a vaccine appointment?

To book an appointment with Ministry of Health and Prevention, you would need to call the Ministry’s hotline on 800 11111.

To book an appointment with Seha, you can download the Seha app, which is available for Apple and Android devices. Simply select which location you wish to receive the vaccine and provide your Emirates ID details to be able to book the appointment.

To book an appointment with DHA, you can either download the DHA app, which is available for Apple and Android devices, or call the DHA hotline on 800 342.

Who can take the vaccine?

From March 21, all UAE citizens and residents can book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine with MOHAP, according to an announcement by the Ministry.

Appointments can be booked on the COVID-19 UAE app.

DHA has been targeting vulnerable categories in the initial roll out of the vaccine. According to an announcement on March 2, the following categories can book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine at a DHA Centre:

1. All Emiratis

2. Dubai residence visa holders within the ‘People of determination’ category

3. All Dubai residence visa holders who are above the age of 40.

4. Dubai residence visa holders who suffer from chronic diseases

5. Elderly residents who are 60 years and above and live in Dubai. According to the announcement, elderly residents aged 60 and above with a valid visa issued in any Emirate can register for an appointment, provided they can prove that they are residing in Dubai.

6. GCC country nationals who carry an Emirates ID.

The appointments for the following categories are scheduled in coordination between the DHA and their workplace:

1. Frontliners

2. Vital sector workers

Vaccination services are available on an appointment basis only.

Why do I need to take two doses of COVID-19 vaccine?

In an awareness post shared by MOHAP on its official social media channels on February 23, the Ministry informed people on the importance of the second dose. According to MOHAP, the vaccine activates two types of cells, but they are short-lived. Active cells for a short time will not give you adequate protection. Adhere to the second dose to receive better results.

Can I skip the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

MOHAP: The second dose is a tool to expose the body again to antigens (molecules) that exist in the disease and trigger an immune response.

UAE: Are there any side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

UAE’s health authorities have also been sharing information on the kind of side effects people could expect when they receive the vaccine.

These are some of the side effects DHA educated people on, in its COVID-19 vaccine guide:

• Fatigue and headaches

• Fever

• Pain, swelling or redness at the site of the injection

• Joint pain

• Vomiting and diarrhoea

• Shivering

• Muscle pain

What do I do if there are side effects?

These are the steps advised by DHA:

• Take a paracetamol when you experience mild and moderate side effects.

• Use a cold compress to relieve pain at the injection site.

• If you have mild and moderate symptoms that persist for longer or severe symptoms, despite the use of paracetamol, you should adhere to the following:

1. Book a telemedicine appointment with the Doctor For Every Citizen initiative.

You can book this appointment by using the DHA app or by contacting the DHA’s toll-free number 800 342 (Choose “COVID-19 Vaccine” from the main list and then click on number 3).

2. For emergencies, head to the nearest health centre or hospital.

General tips after taking the vaccine from DHA

• Be aware of any side effects.

• Comply with the instructions issued by your doctor.

• Make sure you do not skip or delay your appointment for the second dose of the vaccination. This is important for the vaccine to be effective and to provide you with the necessary protection.

Am I exempt from taking a PCR test for travel purposes or for pre-surgical procedures in Dubai if I have taken the COVID-19 vaccine?

No, you are not exempt. For the time being, everyone is required to follow policies and regulations that are related to COVID-19 testing and screening in Dubai, according to DHA’s COVID-19 Vaccine Awareness Guide.

Can I take the vaccine before I travel, or could it lead to a positive PCR test result?

In a press briefing on March 2, Dr Farida Al Hosani, Department Manager Communicable Diseases in Abu Dhabi Public Health Center and Official Spokesperson for the Health Sector in the UAE, asserted that the vaccine cannot be a reason for a positive result as the vaccine does not contain the active virus that causes the disease. Thus, the vaccine cannot infect you.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for the elderly in particular, to raise immunity and reduce the chances of complications,” Dr Farida said.

Do I need COVID-19 test to enter Abu Dhabi if I have taken the vaccine?

The entry guidelines, issued by the Abu Dhabi Media Office, allow people to present either of the two negative tests, no more than 48 hours before the time of entry:

1. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, also known as the swab test

2. A Diffractive Phase Interferometry (DPI) test, also known as a laser test.

However, those who are vaccinated and have the ‘star’ or ‘E’ status on their Alhosn app are exempt from the taking the test.

To know more about how the vaccinated status can remain active on the Alhosn app, read our detailed guide here.

Do I need to take the COVID-19 vaccine only once in my lifetime?

In its COVID-19 Vaccine Awareness Guide, DHA states: “It is too early to determine how long this vaccine will be effective for and the duration of its effectiveness. We will provide more information in this regard once it is available.”

I may not be available for the second dose, can the appointment be changed to another day?

MOHAP: It is important to keep a record of the appointment for the second dose and make sure you adhere to the date, to ensure the required level of immunity and receive maximum benefit from the vaccine. It is recommended to take the second dose at the same vaccination site where the first dose was taken.

Is it possible to take the second dose of the vaccine from another manufacturer?

MOHAP: Two doses of the vaccine should be taken from the same manufacturer to ensure vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Can a person who was infected with COVID-19 take the vaccine?

“The COVID-19 vaccines do not completely eliminate the possibility of infection, but they greatly reduce the risk of infection and transmission. They also reduce severe complications resulting from the virus. Therefore, a small percentage of people may still get infected without experiencing any symptoms or with the presence of mild symptoms. So, we must adhere to the precautionary measures such as wearing face masks and maintaining physical distancing, even after taking the vaccine,” Dr Farida Al Hosani said.

If someone has taken any other vaccine other than the COVID-19 vaccine (for example, the influenza vaccine), is it safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

DHA Vaccine Awareness Guide: Yes, but you need to wait for more than four weeks after the influenza vaccine to be able to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is one COVID-19 vaccine better than another?

“There are multiple vaccines approved and all are effective against COVID-19 virus,” Dr Farida Al Hosani said in a statement to Gulf News.

Which vaccines are available in the UAE?

There are four vaccines in the UAE for use on eligible individuals against the COVID-19 infection:

• Sinopharm

• Sputnik V

• Pfizer-BioNTech

• Oxford-AstraZeneca

I might not be in Dubai to take my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Can I reschedule my vaccine for another day?

DHA Vaccine Awareness Guide: It is strongly recommended to complete the vaccine course and abide by the scheduled time to ensure that you receive the maximum benefit of the vaccine.

Am I exempt from taking a PCR test for travel purposes or for pre-surgical procedures in Dubai if I have taken the COVID-19 vaccine?

DHA Vaccine Awareness Guide: No, you are not exempt. For the time being, everyone is required to follow policies and regulations that are related to COVID-19 testing and screening in Dubai.

Can I stop wearing a face mask after taking the COVID-19 vaccine?

All the health authorities across the UAE have urged people to continue maintaining all the COVID-19 precautions, even after receiving the vaccine. Everyone is required to wear a face mask and maintain social distance.

Is it safe for people with chronic diseases to take the vaccine?

DHA Vaccine Awareness Guide: Yes, the vaccine is safe, effective and indicated for people with chronic diseases as they are at a higher risk of developing COVID-19 complications. Your family physician will inform you if you have any specific contraindication to take the vaccine.

I am on multiple medications, is it safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

DHA Vaccine Awareness Guide: Your family physician will guide you on the safety of taking the vaccine. Provide your physician with your detailed medical history and list of medications. In addition, please make sure you inform your physician if you are allergic to any drugs or have any other allergies.

I got a COVID-19 infection after the first dose of the vaccine. What should I do?

“In case the requester was infected by the virus after the first dose s/he needs to finish the healing process and then go under the immunity test to check in case there is a need for second dose or not,” Dr Farida said.

On February 16, DHA also spoke to Gulf News about common questions surrounding the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Hend Al Awadhi, Head of Health Promotion and Education at DHA, said: “For Pfizer-BioNtech, Sinopharm and Oxford-AstraZeneca, individuals who have been asymptomatic or had mild COVID-19 symptoms and have completed their full isolation period (minimum ten days or longer depending upon their condition) can take the second dose of the vaccine if they do not have any symptoms. Even if they need to delay the second dose by a few days due to their illness, it is fine as long as they take the second dose. They should opt for the second dose of the vaccine only after their doctor’s approval.

“Those who had to be admitted to a hospital for COVID-19 or had moderate-to-severe COVID-19 infection must seek the opinion of their medical team with regard to when they should take the second dose of the vaccine.”

Where can I get an immunity test? Read our detailed guide here.

I got vaccinated for COVID-19 but can’t see the status on the AlHosn app

From January 17, Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee and Department of Health updated the procedures for exemptions in the emirate. According to the updated guidelines, these symbols will only be visible if a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test is taken every seven days.

To retain the vaccination notification on the AlHosn application all those who are vaccinated or volunteering in the National Vaccination Programme will need to be tested weekly.

This status will remain valid for seven days at a time.

If you do not need to travel out of the emirate, you do not need to keep the status active. However, even if you take the PCR test after a period longer than seven days, the status will be activated once you have received a negative test result and will be valid for seven days.