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Vaccination centre set up at the Dubai International Financial Center DIFC, Dubai Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: If you are unsure about taking the COVID-19 vaccine, or have questions about how one vaccine differs from the other, why you need to take two doses and what happens if you skip the second dose, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) has answers.

In a series of posts on its official social media channels, MOHAP shared information on how effective vaccines are in helping fight COVID-19 and why it is important to abide by the second dose.

These are the responses to commonly asked questions on the COVID-19 vaccine as shared by MOHAP.

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

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.

How vaccines offer an effective solution to a pandemic.

MOHAP: A vaccine prepares the body to fight the infection caused by viruses or bacteria. The vaccine contains inactivated or weakened particles of the virus that causes the disease, or contains the genetic code that works to provoke an immune response. This helps the body recognise foreign invaders and produce antibodies to fight them.

The second dose of any vaccine has incomparable effectiveness with the first. Although your body might build antibodies after the first dose, without the second shot this is often followed by a rapid decline.

On receiving the second dose, antibodies appear again in the body in large numbers.

What is herd immunity and how is it achieved?

MOHAP: Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from an infectious disease. With herd immunity, the spread of the disease from person to person becomes unlikely.

Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of the population has become immune to an infection, whether through vaccination or previous infections.

Some important information about the differences between COVID-19 vaccines.

MOHAP: There are various differences among vaccines, according to manufacturing and saving features. Despite that, all vaccines work to provoke an immune response and produce antibodies to fight the virus in case of infection.

How does the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine work?

MOHAP: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine works using the RNA [Ribonucleic acid]. When parts of these genetic codes are injected into the body, they translate them to generate proteins similar to that found on the surface of the virus that initiates infection.

How does the Sinopharm vaccine work?

MOHAP: Sinopharm vaccine works by using killed viral particles to expose the body‘s immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response. The vaccine triggers the body’s immune system and generates antibodies, helping fight the COVID-19 virus.

How effective is the Sinopharm vaccine?

MOHAP: The clinical trials of Sinopharm company proved that its vaccine is effective in protecting against coronavirus and it can prevent the complications caused by the disease.

What are memory cells and why are they important for building immunity?

MOHAP: The level of antibodies may decline over months but the immune system contains cells that are called memory cells. These cells could save information about coronavirus for years. The cells can remember the disease in case of exposure, and trigger the immune system to produce antibodies to fight the virus.

Scientist also discovered that the memory cells had gone through numerous rounds of mutation even after the infection was resolved. As a result, the antibodies they produced were much more effective than the originals. Extra laboratory experiments have also shown that these antibodies are able to recognise the mutated strains of the virus, like the one in South Africa. Studies proved that vaccines differ in their effectiveness levels with the South African strain, but are still effective despite the differences. Therefore, it is important to take the vaccine and abide by the second dose.