Laurence Arca-Bathe and her son Matthis
Laurence Arca-Bathe, director of Urban Energy Fitness, and her teenage son Matthis have both now received the vaccine Image Credit: Supplied

With the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in full force across the UAE, parents have been jumping at the chance to help safeguard their own and their family’s health by getting vaccinated.

And, for those with older children, there is the opportunity to get them protected against the virus too.

All UAE citizens and residents aged 16 years and above who are eligible for vaccination are now included in the National Vaccination Programme against COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Health and Prevention ( MoHAP).  Previously it was only available to those aged 18 years and above, but the threshold was recently lowered to include 16- and 17-year-olds too.

For French expat and mother of two boys, Laurence Arca-Bathe, there was no doubt in her mind that her older son, 17-year-old Matthis, should receive the vaccination.

“My 17-year-old son is usually a boarder at school in the UK, but he flew back home to the UAE for the Winter break”, says Laurence, who owns Urban Energy Fitness, a Dubai-based group fitness company that runs pre and postnatal classes for mums, as well as running groups and a swimming academy.

While Matthis was staying in Dubai, the UK entered a new, strict lockdown period, and so his family decided to keep him in the UAE until the situation in the UK improves.

“For me it was a no-brainer to get him vaccinated here as he is still a resident, and we’re so incredibly lucky to be able to have access to the vaccine for free and so widely available,” says Laurence.

“With the prospect of sending him back to the UK again at some point in the future, where he would be very low down on the priority list for receiving the vaccine, we felt it was important to protect him against the virus and potentially against the new variants. So yes it was an absolute no-brainer to get him vaccinated here as soon as we could.”

17-year-old Matthis has now received both doses of his COVID-19 vaccination
17-year-old Matthis has now received both doses of his COVID-19 vaccination Image Credit: Supplied

“Very impressive and very easy”

Laurence says that the process of getting both herself and her son vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine at Dubai Parks & Resorts was simple. “Once we got inside the field hospital the process was really quick: we saw a nurse, then a doctor, received the vaccine, waited a bit to ensure there was no reaction, then saw the nurse once more, and then we went home. It was all very smooth and very easy. The registration was easy too, although they are very thorough and ask quite a few questions. I was super impressed with the size of the field hospital and how, once you get inside the temporary structure you feel like you’re in a massive, permanent hospital with real bedrooms. It was really impressive and very easy.”

Laurence was a bit of a pioneer in her peer group, as she did not know anyone else who had got their child vaccinated at the time when she and Matthis went for the vaccine. “I was the first one out of my friends to have their children vaccinated. I believe a few of them have had their kids vaccinated since then. But at the time I didn’t know anyone else who had a 17-year-old who had got vaccinated.”

Laurence also has a 12-year-old boy, who she says she would also get vaccinated if and when it becomes available to younger children. “I see no reason why they shouldn’t be vaccinated if that’s going to protect them and the rest of the population.”

Matthis’ GCSE exams were cancelled last year due to COVID, and he is now experiencing another school term disrupted by coronavirus, while Laurence has been battling with the impact of COVID on her fitness business herself. Their hope is that being vaccinated marks the beginning of the end of what has been a very difficult period for everyone, while Matthis is hoping it will make his life easier when he is finally able to go back to boarding school.

Both Laurence and her son Matthis have now received two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine as of yesterday, with neither experiencing any side effects whatsoever, apart from some tenderness at the injection site.

So how does it feel to have had both doses of the vaccine? Laurence says it won’t change much of what they do in their day-to-day lives, and they will continue to stick to the COVID precautions strictly. “We don’t feel invincible by any means, but with quite a few people in our circle down with COVID at the moment, we feel a lot more protected.”