20210108 Dinesh Khiara
Dinesh Khiara receiving his first dose of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at Al Mizhar Centre. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The onset of New Year marked another chapter in our fight against COVID-19 as the UAE’s vaccination programme, which was rolled out in the last quarter of 2020, has gained momentum with more and more people opting for the vaccine.

In the first phase of the roll out, which prioritises, Emiratis, expatriate residents above 60 and those with health co-morbidities as well as people of determination, there have been thousands in UAE who have taken the first dose and are awaiting their second dose in 21 days. So far, the DHA has not seen any side effects reports. The campaign has been taking place very smoothly since it was first initiated in last week of December. Many expatriates above the age of 60 and those with health co-morbidities who applied for an appointment with the Dubai Health Authority have got the vaccine and are feeling very relieved and happy about it.

Expatriate narrate their experiences

Mohammad Mostafa, 35, a partner at a contracting firm in Abu Dhabi, took his first dose on December 20. “It was a smooth and easy process, and because my work involves meeting so many people on a daily basis, I feel safer. I also had no side effects from the vaccine, and am just waiting to complete my second dose in a few days,” he said.

Faisal Al Shemmari, 43, a hospital administrator from Jordan, said he was the last among his friends to take the vaccine. “I’ve finished both my doses already, with no side effects to report. So if someone is worried about the vaccine’s safety, I would reassure them,” he said.

Mohan Gordhan Das Bhatia

Mohan Gordhan Das Bhatia, 67, and his wife, Sarla Bhatia, 65, both received the first dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at the Barsha Primary Health Centre on January 4. Bhatia, a retired businessperson who lives with his extended family in Bur Dubai, said he and his wife had no pain or side effects and were looking forward to receive the second dose on January 25.

Sarla Bhatia

“We had an existing Medical Registration Number as we have a DHA Health Card. I am a heart patient and also suffer from diabetes, My wife has asthma. My son called the DHA number to book our appointment and they already had our report when we quoted the MRN. The entire process was so smooth and post vaccination, the nurse asked us to wait at the centre to watch for any side effects. We had none, My entire family is very relieved we have taken the vaccine,” said an elated Bhatia.

Ishawari M, 75, who has diabetes and lives with her daughter’s family in Dubai, got her first dose in the first week of January at the Al Barsha Primary Health Centre. “My health is a bit delicate owing to diabetes and taking the vaccine was the best decision for me. I was overwhelmed by the professionalism of the nurses and the doctors at the health care centre who gave me the vaccine. The entire process was so smooth, I had no side effects and am feeling perfectly fine. I am looking forward to my next dose in three weeks, ” said the septuagenarian grandmother.

Take the jab and be stress-free, advises Dubai resident

Dubai-based businessperson Dinesh Khiara, who got his first dose of the Pifizer BioNTech vaccine at the Al Mizhar Primary Heath Centre on December 7, was all praise for the streamlined system being followed by DHA. “I dialled the DHA hotline 800342 even as people were debating on which vaccine to choose. I took an appointment nine days ago,” said Khiara, 53, who has some health co-morbidities.

Process for taking an appointment with DHA for Pfizer BioNTech vaccine
• Call DHA toll free number 800342. Provide your name, age and other health details to the automated system
• If you are younger than 60, you might have to submit a certificate from your doctor about the treatment you are undergoing
• Once the process is completed, individuals get a unique Medical Registration Number
• If the call is not going through, one can send an email with all details to info@dha.gov.ae.
• Once the MRN number is received, people can download the DHA app from the App Store and book an appointment.
• Currently priority is being given to all Emiratis, expatriate residents above 60, or those younger with serious health co-morbidities and people of determination.

He explained, “One has to answer health-related questions asked by the automated system, then furnish one’s physician’s certificate that describes the treatment one is under to be accepted on priority. In my family, all three brothers and my sister-in-law got our first dose on Thursday and our next appointment for the second dose is on January 28.”

Khiara said he was very impressed with the entire process of vaccination. “The entire process was so well organised at Al Mizhar. I feel so relieved and relaxed. Now I await the second jab. I would like to tell all Dubai residents, do not listen to rumour mongers. Just go and take your vaccine, be free of stress.”

‘We had no side effects’

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Mukesh Bhatia, 60, veteran Dubai businessperson and his wife Veena, 58, took the vaccine within the first week of the roll out. Image Credit: Supplied

Mukesh Bhatia, 60, veteran Dubai businessperson and his wife Veena, 58, took the vaccine within the first week of the roll out. “My wife suffers from some health issues and I am above 60, so we got our appointment at the Uptown Mirdif Primary Health Centre as soon as the drive started in the last week of December. Our next dose is due on January 14,” said Bhatia who feels it was the best decision they took. “This vaccination has given us a peace of mind. I recommend everyone must take the vaccination and feel reassured and safe,” said Bhatia.

50% of UAE population to be vaccinated by first quarter of 2021

Dr Farida Al Hosani

Commenting on the programme during a weekly briefing on Tuesday, Dr Farida Al Hosani, official spokesperson for the UAE health sector, said already eight per cent of the total population has been vaccinated since the onset of the vaccination. This means that since October 31, about 826,301 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to UAE residents so far. This means on an average, about 47,000 doses have been administered every single day. The UAE health sector plans to continue the programme in a systematic manner and vaccinate about 50 per cent of the population by end of March 2021, she said.

Free vaccines

Every resident in the country is entitled to the COVID-19 vaccination free of charge. While the Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA) and Ministry of Health and Prevention have rolled out Sinopharm vaccine, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has rolled out the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. Both the vaccines have undergone three phases of clinical human trials and have proved their efficacy. The health authorities have provided a detailed list of all the health centres in the UAE where people can take the vaccines.

On Thursday, it was announced that under the supervision of the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi (DoH), the first volunteers are taking part in the Phase III clinical trials of the Russian adenovirus-based vaccine.

In Dubai, the free Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is available at six DHA-run primary health centres across the emirate. These are: The Zabeel, Al Barsha, Al Mizhar, Nad Al Hamar, Uptown Mirdif primary health centres and the Hatta Hospital. In the first phase of the roll out, the vaccine is being given to all Emiratis, all residents above the age of 60 or those who may be younger but have health co-morbidities such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, people of determination and so on. Residents need to call 800342 and get a Medical Registration Number (MRN) after furnishing all details of their health for an appointment.

Take the jab but not ditch the preventive protocols

As people are conquering their hesitation and going in for vaccination throughout the UAE, health authorities have pointed out that vaccination will not mean end of the COVID-19 protocols. “People must continue to abide by the preventive protocols of wearing masks, maintaining social distance, washing and sanitising hands,” cautioned Dr Farida.