Covid-19: Doctors explain why vaccine doubters are a threat to Dubai’s safety

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Dubai - Health experts said those who refuse to get vaccinated could be the reason behind a spike in Covid cases in the country.

by Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Sun 13 Jun 2021, 9:42 PM

Doctors and heads of medical facilities renewed calls for residents to take the Covid jab, a day after a senior health official revealed that the vast majority of Covid-19 infections in Dubai are detected among those who are yet to receive the vaccine.

Health experts said those who refuse to get vaccinated could be the reason behind a spike in Covid cases in the country.

Nine in 10 patients with Covid-19 — who were hospitalised and admitted to the ICU — were unvaccinated, according to Dr Alawi Al Sheikh Ali, deputy director-general of Dubai Health Authority (DHA). He added that eight in 10 people who tested positive for Covid-19 were yet to take the jab.

These figures should have been a wake-up call, medical professionals said, adding that taking the vaccine doesn’t only protect a person against the disease but prevents sick individuals from infecting others.

“Developing immunity through vaccination means there is a reduced risk of developing the illness and its consequences. This immunity helps you fight the virus if exposed. Getting vaccinated may also protect people around you because if you are protected from getting infected, you are less likely to infect someone else,” said Dr Tholfkar Al Baaj, chief clinical officer of Al Futtaim Health Group.

He explained: “This is particularly important to protect people at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19, such as healthcare providers, the elderly, and people with other medical conditions.”

Dr Gunjan Mahajan, a clinical pathologist at Burjeel Hospital, Dubai, said “the vaccine will help us achieve herd immunity when enough people have been vaccinated and have developed protective antibodies against future infection.”

Dr Mohammed Salman Khan, a general medicine specialist at Aster Clinic, Qusais 1, said that even though the UAE’s vaccination drive is being conducted at an enormous scale, there remained those who were hesitant.

“Unfortunately, many people have still opted not to take the vaccine, and it could have led to the sudden rise in the number of Covid-19 cases recently,” Dr Khan said.

However, Dr Sarla Kumari is confident that the UAE remains on track to vaccinating 100 per cent of eligible groups by the end of 2021.

The country has so far administered over 13.8 million vaccine doses, with a vaccine distribution rate of 139.61 doses per 100 people.

“The percentage of people who need to be immune to achieve herd immunity varies with each disease. For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95 per cent of a population to be vaccinated. The remaining five per cent will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated,” said Dr Kumari, specialist physician and diabetologist at Canadian Specialist Hospitals.

For polio, the threshold is about 80 per cent. “The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against Covid-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is still unknown. This is an important area of research and will likely vary according to the community, the vaccine, the populations prioritized for vaccination, and other factors,” added Dr Kumari.

“Most people who are infected with Covid-19 develop an immune response within the first few weeks, but we don’t know how strong or lasting that immune response is, or how it differs for different people. There have also been reports of people infected with the coronavirus for a second time.

“Until researchers better understand Covid-19 immunity, it will not be possible to know how much of a population is immune and how long that immunity lasts for, let alone make future predictions. “These challenges should preclude any plans that try to increase immunity within a population by allowing people to get infected,” she added.

The only people exempted from jabs

>Patients with active Covid-19 infection

>Children under 12 years old

>Pregnant women (until further data becomes available)

>Those who are allergic to vaccines or any of their ingredients

>People suffering from conditions that may ‘conflict with the vaccine.’

>Volunteers in Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials

>People vaccinated outside of the country

>People who have previously contracted Covid-19, following a medical assessment

Why you shouldn’t delay your second dose

Vaccines are designed to create immunological memory, which gives one’s immune system the ability to recognise and fend off viruses. “Most Covid vaccines elicit this response by presenting the immune system with copies of the novel coronavirus’ spike proteins,” explained Al Baaj.

Two-shot vaccinations aim for maximum benefit — the first dose primes immunological memory, and the second dose solidifies it, he explained.

“You can think of it as a gradient. One dose of the Pfizer vaccine can reduce the average person’s risk of getting an asymptomatic infection by about 50 per cent, and one dose of the Moderna shot can do so by about 80 per cent. Two doses of either vaccine lower the risk by about 95 per cent,” he added.

Dr Kumari said: “It doesn’t matter if it’s early by a few days or late by a few days or even a couple of weeks. It’s important to go back and get that second dose because the first dose actually presents this new antigen to the immune system to prime it.”

Dr Khan added: “Research during the trial phase for each of the two-dose vaccines showed that after a certain time, the rate of immunity to Covid-19 infection plateaus with just one dose but that the second dose helped boost the immunity to higher rates.”

Dhanusha Gokulan
Dhanusha Gokulan

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