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A healthcare professional readies a COVID-19 vaccine at a medical facility in Jumeirah, Dubai Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE government has strongly recommended that all residents to go in for a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine six months after receiving two vaccine doses in the first round of immunisation.

At a recent press briefing, Dr Noura Al Ghathi, official spokesperson of the UAE Health Sector, said, “We urge eligible individuals to take their booster shots to protect themselves, especially elderly people and those with chronic diseases, to support the national efforts to address the pandemic and counter variants.”

Discussing the effectiveness of boosters against new variants, Dr Farida Al Hosani, official spokesperson for the UAE Health Sector and Executive Director for the Infectious Disease Sector at the in Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC), urged residents to get the jabs on schedule.

“[As Omicron] is a new variant, we must study more about the effectiveness of the available vaccines against it. Some initial studies indicate that the available vaccines are less effective against the Omicron variant than against previous variants like Alpha, Beta and Delta. However these studies have also shown that people who receive the booster dose had a greater prevention rate than those who did not receive the booster dose. Therefore, we recommend that you make sure to take all vaccines, and especially the booster dose, on time,” she said.

Dr Al Hosani also stressed the importance of all precautionary measures in controlling the spread of the disease.

“Our commitment to following these safety measures is [now] more important than before. Therefore, we have to focus on wearing masks, avoiding crowded places and on getting vaccines [on schedule]. We noticed that lately, people greet each other by hand more than before. This is a very wrong practice, and today, we have to get back to following the precautionary measures that would help prevent infection,” she urged.

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A UAE resident having his blood pressure checked before taking a COVID-19 vaccine at Zabeel Primary Health Centre in Dubai Image Credit: Gulf News

How do booster jabs work?

Studies carried out on COVID-19 and immunisation programmes worldwide have shown that vaccination effectively brought down severity and fatality rates.

Several global studies on vaccine immunity against COVID-19 point out that the jab helps trigger the production of white blood cells called lymphocytes which are produced in two varieties in the human body – the B cells, which make antibodies, and T cells that aid the B-cell response or vanquish the virus directly.

Dr Adel Al Sisi

Dr Adel Al Sisi, Chair of the Prime Health Care Group and of the group’s COVID-19 Task Force and Intensive Care Unit, explains. “Vaccines in general are used to combat all kinds of virus diseases and we have seen that injecting these triggers an antibody response in our body to fight the onslaught of the disease.”

He said, “The last two years have been dedicated to COVID-19 research, vaccine development and immunisation campaign and we saw how the campaign effectively brought down the level of severity, complication and fatality rates of the infection.”

Dr Biju P. Vishambharan

Dr Biju P. Vishambharan, Specialist in Internal Medicine at the NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain, added, “Booster shots help ramp up waning immunity. When a vaccine is administered, whether, MRNA, deactivated or attenuated, the main thing it does is trigger the antibody response in our body to fight the disease.

Decimating severe impact

Dr Khalid Alkubaisy

Dr Khalid Alkubaisy, Internal Medicine Specialist at Medeor Hospital, Abu Dhabi, explained, “Booster shots, in simple terms, enhance one’s antibody level in the body. It means a person who has taken a booster shot will manifest better protection against COVID-19 and the new variants. If one has taken a booster shot, the person is likely to be better protected against the virus. Therefore, while we are witnessing some persons turning positive even after getting a booster jab, these persons experience a mild form of infection or are mostly asymptomatic. They recover quickly in a few days and do not require hospitalisation.”

Vaccine the best weapon to fight COVID-19

“Vaccination is key to fight the virus successfully. At the same time, it is crucial that all of us irrespective of our vaccination status should be wearing masks and following other precautionary practices to protect ourselves and for the sake of the protection of others from the virus,” Dr Alkubaisy said.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) has already issued manuals for COVID-19 booster shots, which call upon all eligible individuals to take the vaccine booster dose six months after taking their second dose. At the same time, it urged the adoption of all other precautionary measures.

“Taking the vaccine does not mean that anyone should stop adhering to relevant precautionary measures, such as wearing face masks, sanitising and keeping a safe physical distance,” the MoHAP has said.

Current booster recommendation guide

The National Crisis, Emergencies and Disaster Management Authority NCEMA) , in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), has made the following recommendations for boosters which depend on the vaccine one was administered in the first round.

Sinopharm vaccine

When to take booster: Six months after the second dose for individuals 16 years and older; Three months after the second dose for individuals with chronic diseases and those aged 50 years and more

Type of booster: One booster dose of the same type of vaccine or any other vaccine

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

When to take booster: Six months adter the second dose for all individuals aged 18 years or more

Type of booster: One booster dose of the same vaccine. Also, according to available studies, it is not recommended to give any extra booster dose for those who have taken Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a booster dose after the Sinopharm vaccine.

Sputnik V

When to take booster: Six months after the second dose for all individuals aged 18 years and more

Type of booster: One booster dose of the same type of vaccine or any other vaccine

Other vaccines

Visit the nearest vaccination centre to be advised on booster types.