A vaccine at a Seha COVID-19 vaccination centre in Mina Rashed, Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Which vaccine should I take? Should I go for Sinopharm or wait for Pfizer? These are questions from my friends in Dubai.

I’m no doctor. No scientist either. But I’ve always been interested in science. As a journalist, COVID-19 has been the biggest story in my career. A pandemic doesn’t come often, especially one that has infected around 100 million people and killed more than two million. Nothing can be bigger than this, I’m sure. That has spurred me to keep track of the developments on the coronavirus.

It doesn’t make me an expert. But my friends think I’m a better judge of all things on COVID-19. I try and wriggle out saying, the vaccine’s a personal choice. And any of the approved vaccines would be fine.

Well, my friends are not easily convinced. They are a stubborn bunch. So the question is often rephrased. Which one would you take? I’ve got the answer ready. I don’t have to take immediately, having contracted COVID-19 eight months back. I would still retain some level of immunity, although there’s no clarity on how long that would last.

How long will immunity last?

The defence about my immunity too doesn’t wash. My friends try a different tack. Suppose you have to take a vaccine now, which would be the one? Having backed myself into a corner, I have to answer. So I reiterate, any of the vaccines would be fine. I meant it. I wasn’t looking for an exit.

Why did I say that? Any protection is better than no protection at all. The vaccines available in the UAE have been found to trigger an excellent immune response. I tell my friends to vaccinate as early as possible. More so since there’s been a spike in cases, globally.

There are also reports of newer strains. A variant that spreads faster has been found in Britain, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it could be deadlier. More strains were found in the United States and South Africa. So, there’s every reason to inoculate soon.

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I’ve come across people who favour one vaccine or the other, and they all have convincing arguments. But some of them are born out of fake news perpetrated through social media. Most debates centre around the mode of design. Some say the traditional route is a proven one, while others contend that the synthetic version uses revolutionary technology.

To me, it doesn’t matter. What matters is whether it works. And all vaccines work. Otherwise, they won’t be approved by so many countries.

Moreover, the big pharma companies take their reputation seriously. If a vaccine bombs, their stocks plunge, and the shareholders won’t be kind to the board of directors. So it’s in the companies’ interest to ensure that the vaccines are of high quality.

The COVID-19 vaccines are indeed of high quality. The efficacy rate of some of them are over 90 per cent, and the lowest is around 60 per cent. Which is fantastic. The influenza vaccines have been around for quite some time, and its efficacy rate is around 50 per cent. That gives us a good idea about the quality of COVID-19 vaccines.

In March, we were praying for a vaccine. I used to be peppered with questions on how soon a vaccine will be available. Today, we have vaccines. Several vaccines designed with different technologies. And all of them are safe and effective.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get vaccinated.