Authorities in Doha reassure the public amid reports of possible post-vaccine allergic reactions.
There have been no registered side effects among people who have received the coronavirus vaccine so far in Qatar, Dr. Yousef Al Maslamani, Medical Director at Hamad General Hospital, told state television on Monday.
The Qatari health official’s statement comes amid global media reports about the COVID-19 vaccine’s possible side effects.
“Fear of anything that is new is completely normal…there are people who would trust and share theories and there are people who would trust the scientific side of things. We base our entire work on the latter as it determines whether the vaccine is safe or not,” said Dr. Al Maslamani.
Dr. Al Maslamani also called on the public not to rely on rumours about the virus, or unverified information spread through social media applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter; instead to learn from health professionals and those who have been vaccinated.
“Since Wednesday, we have noticed greater acceptance of the vaccine among members of society, especially the elderly who are over 70 years of age and those with chronic illnesses,” the health official added.
Commenting on the new virus variant, Dr. Al Maslamani stated that it is a routine mutation that was expected to happen and that he doesn’t believe it will pose new threats to people’s lives.
“Take the influenza virus as an example, there would always be a new variant of it at least every year, which is normal,” said Dr. Al Maslamani.
He added that health officials in Qatar were aware of the COVID-19 mutation early on, and the only main difference in this latest variant is that it spreads faster. According to Dr. Al Maslamani the current vaccines are effective against this new variant that was first discovered in the United Kingdom.
Read also: COVID-19 update in Qatar and the new variant
Other news to come out of the doctor’s interview is that the COVID-19 tracing app, Ehteraz, will add a new feature that will show whether the account holder has been vaccinated or not, this feature will prove each person’s immunity from the virus once they have completed the entire vaccination process.
“In the first week, the vaccinated individual’s immunity is not guaranteed as they still require another shot three weeks later and will then need an additional week for their body to respond to the second round of vaccine,” he said.
The first batch of the coronavirus vaccine by German firm BioNTech and American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, arrived in Doha on Monday December 21st, making Qatar one of the first Arab countries to receive the vaccine.
Phase one of the campaign started on Wednesday 23rd of December and is running until January the 31st. Priority is being given to seniors above 70 years old, people with chronic illnesses who are 16 years or above, and frontline workers in the health sector.
Following the first vaccination, recipients will receive a second dose 21 days after which is said to bolster the immunisation process and the effectiveness of the vaccine.
The first ever vaccine to be administered in Qatar was given to 79-year-old Abdullah Al Kubaisi, former president of Qatar University at the Al-Wajba Health Center.
“We appreciate all the effort the government has put in to protect the people of Qatar, especially given the severity of the virus,” Al Kubaisi said before taking the vaccine.
Many prominent figures in the health care sector have also taken the vaccine, including Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation.
“I have full confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage all those high-risk members of our community who are eligible in this first phase of the campaign to take this opportunity to protect themselves and get vaccinated,” said Dr. Al Khal when receiving the vaccine.
Till now Qatar holds one of the lowest death rates globally, coupled with the highest recovery rate, despite recording the highest infections per capita at the beginning of the outbreak.