Image Credit: Virendra Saklani / Gulf News

  • Dubai expands vaccinations, adding more primary healthcare centres.
  • The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has been converted into a mass vaccination facility.
  • Dubbed as "One Central COVID-19 Vaccination Centre", the DWTC can serve up to 4,000 people per day, according to the Dubai Health Authority.

Dubai: It's 7.30am on Tuesday (January 19, 2021). As Dubai residents woke up to a foggy morning, around 10 people made their way to the Zabeel Primary Health Centre to get their dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

One vaccination every 20 minutes; the whole process about 35. It's been like that since the campaign started on December 23, 2021. This routine goes on until 8.30pm. At any given hour, around 10 people walk in for the vaccination. The staff ensure every registered recipient has a hassle-free experience.

Patient assessment

On this day, Indian expatriate Hussain Shakir, 34, wheels in his 67-year-old mother Fathima for her second dose of the vaccine. The security guard records their temperatures on his digital thermometer at the entrance.

Shakir presents his mother’s National ID and the appointment on Dubai Health Authority's (DHA) app. He gets a token number and once the registration is done they wait for their turn for assessment. The mother-son duo sits at the reception, observing social distancing protocols.

When the token number flashes on the monitor Shakir takes his mother to the assessment area where her vital signs are checked and recorded. Patients are asked about their specific conditions — medications, comorbidities, allergies, and so on. People coming for the second dose are asked about side-effects, if any, following the first dose.

Head nurse Shiji Mathew says: “We ask residents [about their medical condition] as there are certain restrictions against administering vaccines to pregnant mothers or those planning a pregnancy or even lactating mothers. [We3 also ask about] ...other cases such as allergies, patients who may be on active cancer treatment or have any other immunocompromised conditions, have heart conditions or on blood thinners etc., or patients suffering from depression who may be on anti-depressants. We have to understand their health [status]. We take decisions on a case-by-case basis. For instance, a cancer patient who has stopped all medications six months ago may be able to get the vaccine. Similarly, someone on a specific blood thinner may not be at risk. We assess the situation on the spot and decide,” she said.

'I feel perfect: No side-effects'

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Fatima Shakir and her son Hussain Shakir are asked about her experience after the first dose at Zabeel Primary Health Centre before getting the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Fathima Shakir, 67, who received her first dose on December 28, 2020, is upbeat about the second dose. “We were living in India while our three sons and their families lived here. My sons have a building material business and we live close to each other in Al Nahda. We live in the home of our eldest son Mustafa, and his family. In early 2020, we moved here as my sons felt we were safer here. I deeply admire the manner in which the UAE has handled the crisis. We have only praise for the efficiency of the UAE government,” says Shakir, grandmother to eight grandchildren from her three sons.

Shakir who hails from Kozhikode, Kerala, and her husband Saifuddeen Shakir, 70, who is from Calcutta, both registered for the vaccination on the DHA app as soon as it became available. “My husband had his first dose on January 17 while I had my first dose on December 28. I had no side effects, apart from some soreness in the arm that only lasted for a few hours. I feel perfectly fine and am so happy to receive my second dose,” said Shakir.

Before her second dose is administered, nurse Bincy Mathew greets the patient, checks the registered details on the computer, enquires about Shakir’s health, asking her questions about her medications, any side-effects or allergies she may have, measures her blood pressure and moves to inject the vaccine.


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A paramedic at the Zabeel Primary Health Centre in Dubai prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The vaccine vials are placed in a cold container that is maintained below 98 degrees Celsius. Nurse Mathews said: “The vaccine is transported in -70 degree C temperatures and is stored in similar temperature. However, when we take out the vials to be injected for the day as per the requirements of the registered appointees, we transfer them to a cold bag and can keep them in temperatures between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius."

Once it is taken out of the cold box, it can remain at room temperature for six hours, she explained. Mathews chats with the patient and smoothly slides in the syringe on the right arm of the patient.

After that, Shakir is wheeled out and asked to wait for 20 minutes in the waiting room to record any adverse reaction. This, the nurses at the centre, explain is the standard protocol that is followed for any kind of vaccine and is not specific to the COVID-19 vaccine.

'I feel greatly relieved'

Emirati businessperson Abdullah Majid Khalfan Bin Thaneya, 64, walks in for his second dose and is very optimistic. He tells Gulf News, “I had no side-effects at all apart from slight pain at the site of the vaccination on my left arm that lasted for a few hours. I feel greatly relieved to receive my second dose. Nurse Mathews maintains her due diligence in her examination and questioning the patient, records his blood pressure medication before administering the vaccine.

There are several rooms with curtained partitions and the centre has a steady flow of residents who are getting the vaccination simultaneously.

'Do not lower your guard'

Dr Khawla Eissa Al Hajaj, the head of the health centre who has been closely monitoring the procedures of the day, liasing between the reception staff, the appointment candidates and the nurses, cautioned: “We want residents to know that it is important to get both doses of the vaccine in a gap of 21 days. Seven days after receiving the second dose, they will be able to take advantage of the immunity.

"I would like to advise people not to lower their guard. Despite the vaccination, continue to observe social distancing, wear your facemasks, use hand sanitisers and avoid large parties. There is a four per cent chance of infection after the vaccination and if we are careful and cautious only then will we be able to break the chain of transmission effectively,” she said.

At 8.30pm, as the day draws to a close, the last patient walks in. It is just curtains for the time being. The next day, work resumes with the same pace. Another day, another set of patients. But the frontline health workers have the same resolve: to meet the mass vaccination challenge with renewed strength.

Hospitals providing COVID-19 vaccine:

The COVID-19 vaccine is currently available in several hospitals in Dubai. These include:

  • Rashid Hospital
  • Dubai Hospital
  • Latifa Hospital
  • Hatta Hospital
  • Uptown Mirdiff Medical Fitness Centre
  • Mediclinic Hospital Network (13 locations)
  • Three mobile units

Primary healthcare centres:

The vaccine is also being provided in the following primary healthcare centres:

  • Al Mizhar Health Centre
  • Zabeel Health Centre
  • Al Barsha Health Centre
  • Nadd Al Hamar Health Centre
  • Al Safa Health Centre
  • Al Badaa Health Centre
  • Nad Al Sheba Health Centre
  • Al Mankhool Health Centre
  • Al Twar Health Centre
  • Al Lisaili Health Centre

Additional vaccination centres:

The vaccine is being offered at the following facilities:

  • Union Health Centres
  • Al Qusais Health Centre
  • Dubai Parks & Resorts Field Hospital

Screening centres:

The following had been designated as additional vaccination screening facilities:

  • Al Khawaneej and Port Rashid
  • Emirates Specialty Hospital (22 locations)
  • Burjeel Network
  • VPS Network (two locations)
  • NMC Hospitals Network (nine locations)

4,000 vaccinations/day: One Central COVID-19 Vaccination Centre, Dubai


To accelerate the mass-vaccination campaign and meet the growing demand, the DHA announced on Monday that more healthcare centres will administer the vaccine.

The DHA also stated that the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has been turned into "One Central COVID-19 Vaccination Centre", with capacity to serve 4,000 people per day.

Dr Khawla Al Hajaj, Head, Zabeel Health Centre

Dr Khawla Al Hajaj, Head, Zabeel Health Centre
Dr Khawla Al Hajaj, Head, Zabeel Health Centre Image Credit: Virendra Saklani / Gulf News

How long does it take for the vaccine to act? How does our immune system respond after the two doses?

Once a candidate gets both doses of the vaccine in a three-week gap, seven days after that, the immunity kicks in. To explain in very simple language, our body’s immune system responds with the production of the antibodies and these antibodies act to protect the individual if he or she faces any exposure to the virus.

Once a candidate gets both doses of the vaccine in a three-week gap, seven days after that, the immunity kicks in.

- Dr Khawla Al Hajaj, Head, Zabeel Health Centre

What are the expected side-effects after receiving the vaccine?

Only in some cases, people have reported very basic side-effects such as soreness in the arm, some light flu like symptoms, fatigue for a few hours. This is also not in all cases.

Can a person report to work the same day after receiving the vaccine?

Yes, people can resume work immediately. In case they have any of the side-effects reported above or feel fatigue they can take rest and use the regular paracetamol for relief.

A vaccine does not mean total protection against the virus, so what is your advice to residents who complete the two doses of the vaccine.

As we know, so far no vaccine has 100 per cent efficacy against the virus. So my advice to all residents is to not lower guard, follow all COVID-19 protocols and government instructions. Wear the facemask properly when in public, keep safe distance, avoid going to parties, wash your hands and sanitise frequently even after having received both doses of vaccination.

Nurse Shiji Mathews, head nurse at the Zabeel Health Centre

Which category of people cannot take the vaccine?

We do not administer the vaccine to pregnant women or those who are planning to get pregnant within the next three months. The vaccine is not administered to lactating mothers. In other cases, such as those under active cancer treatments or those who have had recent organ transplants, the vaccine is not given.

As soon as the person is registered at the reception, he is called for assessment and once that is completed in under 10 minutes he/she proceeds for the vaccination room. After vital parameters are measured, the person gets the vaccine and is asked to wait 20 minutes for post-vaccination observation.


People on anti-depressants are also not likely to be administered the vaccine. But in all other cases, such as those on blood thinners with heart conditions, those who had cancers and are not on active treatment protocols, those who had organ transplants earlier and not recently, we take a decision on a case-by-case basis.

Step-by-step guide to vaccination
For the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, all residents of Dubai above the age of 60 or those younger with comorbidities and people of determination can get their Unique Medical Registration Number (MRN) number by providing their Emirates ID details.

As of now, these are the categories we are focusing on. Other categories will open up later. Once they get their MRN number they can apply via the DHA app for an appointment and they will be notified about it with the time and the centre location.

On the designated day and time they walk into the assigned health centre, they take token for registration. At the registration counter, the official will check the Emirates ID, enter their details into the system.

The patient is then triaged to assess if he/she requires family medicine consultation or can go straight for assessment. Then, the patient is sent to the waiting area. When their turn comes, the patient will be taken to the assessment centre where he or she will be asked some questions related to their ailments, allergies, medicines taken etc.


The time it takes to complete COVID-19 vaccination at Dubai's Zabeel Health Centre

How much time — from the moment a person walks in, to the time the person steps out with his or her dose — does it take at the centre?

The entire process does not take more than 35 minutes. As soon as the person is registered at the reception, he is called for assessment and once that is completed in under 10 minutes he proceeds for the vaccination room. After vital parameters are measured, the person gets the vaccine and is asked to wait 20 minutes for post-vaccination observation. This is a standard international protocol we follow. The individual can proceed home and resume normal activity.

Can the patient be with his family members who may not have taken the vaccine?

So far, we have no instructions otherwise. But in case of very senior citizens it is advisable to be careful with their health in general and keep them safe.