The UAE began rolling out its extensive national vaccination program in December 2020, ranking among the top countries in terms of the rate of vaccine doses administered. The country aims to inoculate 70% of its entire population before the end of 2021. Filipinos in the country have begun availing of the free vaccine being offered across the emirates, praising government-led initiative that ensures that no one is left behind.
Jean Mary Mercado Perdiz, a teacher who has been in the country for 12 years, said that she decided to avail of the free vaccine because of the nature of her work.
She had her first dose on November 11, 2020, and got her second one on December 5, 2020.
“Napagdesisyunan ko po na magpa-COVID-19 vaccine dahil sa school ako nag-wo-work para safety ko at safety na rin ng mga estudyante namin,” she said.
Jae Nogoy, who has been in the UAE for seven years, also received the jab as she welcomed 2021 because of the positive results among those who have already been vaccinated.
Nagoy already had her first dose on January 16, 2021, and her second one is scheduled on February 6.
“Madami na akong mga kaibigan na nakapagpa-vaccine na din at okay naman ang results sa kanila, nag-consult din muna ako sa aking OB since I have PCOS and taking medication and sinabi sa akin na safe magpa-vaccine kaya nabuo na din ang loob ko na,” she said.
Mobility, meanwhile, is the reason Keith Walter Ayuso decided to get the jab on December 18, 2020, noting that those who are vaccinated get the confidence to travel across borders.
“Primarily, the need for mobility in terms of the border access is a concern since the movement restrictions happened, thus it will a big help once you have the vaccine,” he said.
The UAE takes the lead
These Filipinos are among the over a million expats who have received the free vaccine provided by the UAE.
It has a dose administration rate of 19.04 per 100 people, according to ‘Our World in Data’ website that tracks vaccination rates and run by researchers at the University of Oxford. As of this writing, the total doses administered across the country now stand at 1.88 million.
The UAE also takes the top spot worldwide in terms of vaccinating medically eligible residents against COVID-19, with a vaccine distribution rate of 25.12 doses per 100 people, according to National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA).
Such feat is a result of the leaders’ plan to help all residents acquire the required immunity, reduce the rate of infection, and contain the spread of the virus. It also noted that the vaccine is being provided to frontline workers, who were prioritized since it was approved at the start of October 2020, adding that the vaccine is available to all segments of the community, whether citizens and residents, most notably elderly people and those with chronic diseases.
According to Maria Elena Oliva, a General Practitioner at NMC Mabuhay Clinic in Abu Dhabi, the extensive vaccination will provide the country recovery not only on the health, but also on the economy front.
“Kahanga hanga ang ginawa ng UAE sa pamimigay ng bakuna na ito upang makontrol ang kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa. Malaki ang magiging epekto nito sa ekonomiya kung kakaunti na lamang ang magkakaroon ng COVID-19. Mas madaming trabaho na ulit ang maiooffer nila,” she said.
Sheena Cecille Marie Tan Go, a General Practitioner at Golden Sands Medical Center, also noted that this feat only shows how collaboration between the leaders and the residents can result in the success in the fight against the pandemic.
She added that it is important for any nation to achieve herd immunity, which is vital to protect those not eligible to get the vaccine from getting moderate or severe forms of the disease.
“We have to work as a community to hopefully vaccinate everyone eligible so that we can achieve herd immunity; kung saan malaking proportion ng populasyon ay maging immune sa COVID-19, para di na kumalat ang virus. It will protect not just those who are immune, but the vulnerable ones as well,” she said.
What the experts say
As of this writing, there are two vaccines that are currently being inoculated across the UAE—the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech, and the Sinopharm vaccine made in China.
According to experts, the Pfizer vaccine contains the genetically modified component of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, called the mRNA. This commands our bodies to create antibodies in order to protect ourselves from the virus.
The Sinopharm vaccine, on the other hand, is made from the inactivated COVID-19 virus. It has been declared by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) as 86 percent effective. It will be administered in two doses, 21 days apart.
“Ito ay vaccine na naglalaman ng SARS-CoV-2 virus na pinahina na upang hindi magbigay ng impeksyon, pero magiging dahilan ng paggawa ng katawan natin ng “antibodies” upang panlaban sa sakit na dulot nito,” said Oliva.
The Sinopharm vaccine is the same vaccine that was used in the groundbreaking ‘4Humanity’ trials, the first global clinical Phase III trial of an inactivated vaccine to combat COVID-19 which was launched in UAE in July this year, and later was officially registered by the MOHAP on December 9.
According to Abdul Rahman bin Mohammad Al Owais from MOHAP, the UAE was the first country in the world to have registered the Sinopharm vaccine.
“I am pleased to see that the core results of the two interim results are consistent with high protection rate and robust safety profile, and that the vaccine will be readily accessible in the UAE for population vaccination,” he said.
The doctor added that the vaccine is perhaps the single best weapon today against COVID-19, as it protects the community from getting severe forms of the illness.
“Gaya ng ibang bakuna, importante ang pagkakaroon ng proteksyon laban sa sakit. Maiiwasan natin ang pagkakaroon ng COVID-19. Kung mahawa ka man ng COVID-19 kahit mabakunahan na, hindi na ito magiging malubha kumpara sa walang bakuna,” Oliva added.
Go, meanwhile, stressed that the vaccine is an important contributor to stimulating the body to produce antibodies that can provide immunity against the disease.
“Importante na magpabakuna laban sa COVID-19 dahil sa pamamagitan nito, na-i-introduce ang katawan natin sa virus, part of the virus or a protein similar to the virus without inducing the disease itself,” she said.
What about the side effects?
According to Go, it is normal to experience side effects from the vaccine, as it is the way of your body being introduced to foreign components before creating the necessary immunity that can protect one against the illness.
“Normal lang ang magkaroon ng side effects pgkatapos ng pagbabakuna kasi dapat alalahanin natin na may ini-introduce na foreign na material sa katawan natin kapag tayo ay nagpapabakuna. Normal talaga na magre-react ang katawan natin sa ganitong situasyon,” she said.
Oliva said that among the usual side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines include fever, body aches, arms where the jab was given, fatigue, headache, drowsiness, and nausea. The side effects, she added, usually lasts for three days.
Filipinos urged to get the jab
Experts are urging Filipinos and all eligible residents in the UAE to get vaccinated as this is the best way to protect the entire community.
“Hindi lang ito para sa sarili ninyong kalusugan,para sa proteksyon din ito ng pamilya at mga tao sa paligid ninyo,” said Oliva.
Go also said that only through achieving herd immunity can we truly ensure safety against the disease, and it can only happen with the help of vaccine.
“Huwag sayangin ang oportunidad na maprotektahan ang sarili at ang mga taong nakapaligid sa’yo. Kung may pag agam-agam, consult the experts, people who are familiar with this, or educate yourself by reading about it. We have to work together in order for us to hopefully be able to get in a position where we as a community can do more of the things that we can do before this pandemic started,” she said.
Meanwhile, Filipinos who already got the shots express their utmost gratefulness to the UAE for this initiative.
Perdiz said that she has witnessed the willingness of the UAE to provide all the medical assistance that all the residents need.
“I want to say thank you UAE! From the bottom of my heart, I can truly say we can defeat COVID-19 in UAE. We are Safe!” she said.
Ayuso also recognized the relentless efforts of the government in fighting the pandemic, saying: “We would like to acknowledge the continuous effort and security measures of the UAE government in fighting the pandemic. Since the outbreak, we have always felt the guidance of the authorities in ensuring the safety and well-being of its residents and citizens.”