Samihah Zaman Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The start of the new year has truly felt like a turning point. After what can only be called an insane 2020, I received the second shot of my COVID-19 vaccine on January 2.

Based on what I’ve read so far, my immune system is still working up to its highest level of protection against COVID-19. Yet, the sense of relief I already feel is precious.

It’s not because I feel that the world has defeated this pandemic-causing virus. We are still donning masks before stepping out, and diligently sanitising groceries brought home. Much of the globe is also fighting hard to overcome the pandemic: I hear from relatives elsewhere about national lockdowns and vaccine access difficulties.

This is why I feel the UAE has given us an early chance at serenity. From the start of the pandemic, I’ve noted the myriad initiatives that have been undertaken – mass screening campaigns, research on a multitude of therapeutic approaches, and the highest levels of care for the affected. Now, vaccines that protect are available to all residents free of charge. 

Even more comforting is the fact that the rest of my family in the UAE has also been vaccinated, including my parents. Certainly, relief would have eluded me if my parents hadn’t received the vaccine. They are older, and by that very token, could suffer more if infected by COVID-19. And although we’ve kept to ourselves as much as possible since the pandemic hit, there really is no telling how the coronavirus can affect you.

So access to these immunisation shots has truly been a blessing.

The vaccination experience itself has also been easy, and has followed much the same set of steps for each of the two doses. At the designated health facility, I had to submit just my Emirates ID. A while later, I was called in by a nurse, who checked my vitals and asked about any allergies and illnesses. After confirming that I had not contracted COVID-19 yet, I was asked to take a pregnancy test: the COVID-19 vaccines in the UAE have not yet been approved for used by pregnant women. A doctor then checked with me to ensure that I was generally healthy, and I was handed a set of consent forms to sign. Before I received the shot, a smiling nurse explained what numbers I could call if I felt any discomfort. A quick pinch in my upper arm for the shot, and that was it.

The consent forms we signed mentioned some minor side effects from the vaccine; I experienced none of them. Instead, having taken my first dose, I only found myself waiting for three weeks to complete the process.

The Al Hosn app on my phone does not yet reflect that I have been vaccinated. The nurse at the facility said it will be 28 days until the letter ‘E’ shows up to confirm that I have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. But I already feel different.

It’s the feeling you get when you give your newborn his first two-month immunisation shots: you know there is still a long way to go for him to grow into a thriving toddler, but you feel safer stepping out of the house with him for a grocery run to a crowded supermarket.