UAE doctors explain: Yearly Covid virus vaccination could be the way forward

Dubai - A UAE official explained that with more mutations, the higher the potential need to vaccinate annually against it.

By Saman Haziq

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Published: Wed 27 Jan 2021, 5:21 PM

As new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus pop up around the world — there is a chance that people may need to get a Covid-19 vaccine every year, just like flu shots, experts have said.

Also read: You may need to take annual Covid jabs, UAE official

At a recent virtual panel discussion, Dr Farida Al Hosani, official spokesperson for the UAE health sector, explained that the more mutant the virus, the higher the potential need to vaccinate annually against it.

Also read: Big discounts, free stuff for vaccinated residents

Doctors in the UAE agree that regular booster shots may be required. Dr Jyothis George, director of Prime home care services and head of vaccinations for the Prime Healthcare Group, said there are two conditions that will decided whether or not repeated vaccination for Covid-19 is necessary.

“First, if the antibodies level in our bodies are depleting after a certain period then we will need a repeat shot of the vaccine; and second, we have to see how many different strains of the virus are surfacing. If they are not covered under the current vaccines, then we will need a modified version of the vaccine to tackle it,” Dr George said.

He added that only after a long-term study can it be observed if the antibodies produced by the Covid-19 vaccine are depleting after a certain period of time, around 8 to 12 months.

“Currently, vaccines trials have been done for three to five months maximum, but studies are still ongoing to understand how long the antibodies last. Perhaps in the next six months or so, these vaccine-makers may say that antibody level is slowly dropping and if that happens, we may need a booster,” the doctor explained.

As the virus mutates, the world may get different strains, similar to the case of seasonal influenza.

Comparing the Covid vaccine to the flu shot, Dr George explained: “If you look at the flu vaccine, we see that flu virus mutates every year, and all countries get these new strains. Therefore, at the end of the year, before the flu season, they manufacture a vaccine which targets the new strains. Every year, the flu vaccine is updated.

“Similar to flu, we have realised there are some new strains for Covid that are mutating as well. Therefore, it is a possibility that we may have to take another vaccine after a year or so, which would work against the mutated strains.”

Dr Mustafa Saif, internal medicine specialist at Aster Hospital, Mankhool, said annual Covid vaccination could be the way forward.

“Annual vaccination drives usually help in increasing herd immunity so less people tend to get infected and the virus spread is contained. Also, the severity of the disease is greatly reduced through such drives.”

Dr Remesan Gopalan, internal medicine specialist at NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain, saw yearly jabs as key to fighting the pandemic. “Repeated Covid vaccination yearly may reduce the chances of getting severe infection. Until we get an effective antiviral medication, vaccination seem to be the only hope to fight against the Covid pandemic.”


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