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Covid 19 Vaccines. A SchoolsCompared.com Special Report for Students and Parents.
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Background – Covid 19 Vaccines.

As if COVID-19 and its implications was not enough, parents, teachers and students of 16 years of age or older are now fretting about the latest dilemma – to vaccinate or not to vaccinate.

To compound the confusion, in the UAE, where there is both the Pfizer vaccine, available in Dubai, and the Sinopharm vaccine, available nationally, the question is now which vaccine?

We look at how to make sense of the current options for parents and students.

 

Who should be vaccinated? 

Dr Anuradha Gunasekaran, specialist paediatrician at Aster Clinic, says for those in a school environment, both parents and children, it is now clear cut that the greater good is best served by all adults in society, but particularly now teachers, choosing to be vaccinated.

“All over the world, children are relatively less affected with COVID and they tend to be more asymptomatic carriers.

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It would, however, be for the benefit of adults, including those working in the school environment and vulnerable people at the children’s home, that parents and teachers and support staff at schools get vaccinated – and particularly given that those under 18 will not be vaccinated.”

Dr Anuradha Gunasekaran. Specialist Paediatrician. Aster Clinic

 

Are Vaccines Enough?

However, Dr Gunasekaran also believes that it is vital that a safety protocol remains in place across all schools, with preventive protocols like masks, hand washing, respiratory hygiene and physical distancing all integrated powerfully within every school until vaccine availability gets more streamlined and embedded. Dr Gunasekaran believes that parents and students should be prepared for Covid restrictions to remain a way of life for a long time to come and is insistent that:

“The best way to break the chain of infection, is mass vaccination.”

Dr Anuradha Gunasekaran. Specialist Paediatrician. Aster Clinic

“Vaccines are going to be the invaluable strategic weapons in mitigating this pandemic,” she says.

 

Are vaccines safe?

Dr Gunasekaran does however, acknowledge that it the vaccines have been developed quickly. Many parents will worry about being vaccinated. We need to confront the reality, she argues, that many families fear being amongst the first to step forward for vaccination.

Dr Gunasekaran argues, however, that parents need to try and be assured that “the science behind vaccine development has come on leaps and bounds in the past 20-30 years.”

Although the Covid vaccines have been developed with extraordinary swiftness, Dr Gunasekaran is insistent that:

“Given the urgency, some stages of vaccine research were ‘dove-tailed’ and ‘telescoped. But the vaccines, despite the speed of their being made available, have been produced without short-cuts on safety. Parents should understand that they do now have access to efficacious vaccines without major adverse effects.”

Dr Anuradha Gunasekaran. Specialist Paediatrician. Aster Clinic

Claire Moukabaa is a mother of one, Ayla, who is almost five.

Mrs Moukabaa believes too that, on the basis of the greater good, every teacher should be vaccinated.

“I’ve seen so many teachers coming down with this, so I think it’s unavoidable.

“While I believe it’s everyone’s right to choose – whether to vaccinate, or not, and which to take – it’s also about doing our part to protect each other.

If doctors are choosing to be vaccinated, as they are now, if they are saying it is safe, I think we must now all accept that vaccination is the only way we all have left to move on from the horrors of Covid 19.”

Claire Moukabaa. Parent. 

 

Which Vaccine – Sinopharm or Pfizer? 

Dr Hassan Galadari, a father of four, is now vaccinated. He had always planned to take the vaccine as a dermatologist working closely with patients, and chose Pfizer purely based on logistical grounds.

He insists that he was not strongly inclined towards the Pfizer vaccine over the Sinopharm alternative although accepts that “many do feel more trust towards one vaccine than another.”

Based in Dubai, Dr Galadari was given the choice between Sinopharm or Pfizer vaccines.

The availability of vaccines and choice for some parents is as odds with the position faced by parents elsewhere in the world, including the majority of Western, highly developed economies. Many millions around the world have no access to vaccines at all.

So what is the difference between vaccines? Simply stated, the Pfizer option is a new type of vaccine using RNA technology.  The Sinopharm vaccine is based on traditional vaccine technologies as used in vaccinations like the annual flu jab.

For Dr Galadari, however, the technology is much less important, however, than the ambition of both to mitigate the risk of the vaccinated being infected by Covid 19, or, if those who are vaccinated do become infected, catching a much milder viral infection.

For Dr Galadari, the key message must be to get vaccinated and worry less about the alternatives.

“As children can be carriers, it’s important that adults exposed to children, including teachers and parents, do get vaccinated.

This is not only to ensure that firstly, they avoid catching the disease, but also, to avoid its spread.”

Dr Hassan Galadari. Parent and University Lecturer. 

Dr Galadari was given the option to either have the vaccination or to have continuous PCR tests every fortnight to ensure he remained Covid free. However, he believes that the move to mass vaccination is inevitable:

“If I was a school administrator, I would have this policy of choice for my teachers.

But in time the vaccine may will become a mandatory requirement for every citizen including those working in education.”

Dr Hassan Galadari. Parent and University Lecturer. 

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available in Dubai and is being made available to the population in stages according to defined need. More information can be found in our ‘Notes to Parents’ at the end of this article or by calling the toll-free number 800 342. The aim is that the vaccine will eventually be made available to all residents. Exact details on current availability and those who can access the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine today can be found by calling the above number.

 

The impact on schools, parents and students

As schools continue to bounce between online and in-class learning, not least since the return after the festive period, Dr Gunasekaran sympathises with the lot of parents who are desperate to have a sense of normalcy back for their children.

“An important lesson from this COVID pandemic is that schools are more than mere academic centres. They play a crucial role in the physical, psycho-social and emotional maturation of the young minds apart from the cognitive development.”

Dr Anuradha Gunasekaran. Specialist Paediatrician. Aster Clinic

Parents want children back at school – but they also want them, and themselves, to be safe. Often these two needs are in complete opposition. Vaccines provide the only viable way of bridging both needs.

As it stands, schools are again facing growing cases and closures, whether in full or part. More on this here.

 

Challenges ahead

2021 Covid 19 Vaccines in the UAE Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Challenges, even with vaccines in places, remain:

  • Although the vaccines reduces severity of the illness, and in some cases can block it entirely, it is yet to be confirmed if they can stop transmission.
  • There is no guarantee than vaccination works at all for an extended period. The UK government, for example, is considering introducing mass repeat vaccination moving forward every six months. Like the UAE, it is building national manufacturing capacity for vaccines, both to provide vaccines for ongoing vaccination and the capacity to manufacture new vaccines able to respond to mutations of the virus.
  • In the UK, to ensure as many people are vaccinated as swiftly as possible, the time between the required first and second doses of the vaccine is being delayed. Currently, as it stands, both Pfizer and Sinopharm vaccines in the UAE, however, are administered in double doses according to the guidelines set by the manufacturers. Widespread availability of the vaccine is helping the UAE avoid having to compromise.  In fact, recent reports evidence a growing number of wealthy individuals flying to Dubai to secure vaccines that are unavailable in their home countries.

The UAE does have other advantages. The UAE is advanced in its mass testing capabilities, this required to better monitor infection rates and in turn, reassure parents. Many now accept that, until the virus is eradicated entirely from a nation, the risk of infection and re-infection, regardless of the degree to which the population is vaccinated, will remain.

The University of Birmingham in Dubai is one institution in the process of producing a new COVID-19 test that will reduce testing time from 30 minutes to less than five minutes. Not only is the test fast, but reliable too. Samples do not need to be treated at high temperatures, and it can be performed using standard laboratory equipment, making it readily deployable.

 

What should parents do?

“We’re at a crucial stage of moving forward from the pandemic and it’s up to each of us to play our part.

The vaccine is available free of charge to all residents in the UAE.”

Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) Dubai, 18 January 2021

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has called on the education community to be vaccinated. New variants of Covid 19 are seen as significantly increasing infection spread and risk to life. Record numbers of cases in the UAE, these around 3,500 daily in January, are, as elsewhere in the world, focusing hearts and minds on mass vaccination as quickly as possible.

Sheikh Abdullah, who is also Chairman of the Education and Human Resources Council, has encouraged both teachers and administrators in all schools to be vaccinated as quickly as possible given its widespread available in all seven emirates.

Today, educational leaders are openly publicising their being vaccinated to reassure parents, this including recent posts by the Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai, Dr Abdulla Al Karam and school Principals from across the UAE. More information on School Principals that have been vaccinated can be found here.

For many, the choices around vaccination remain far from clear cut. Many parents are wary. Others are confused with the options presented to them:

“Every Vaccine will have its pros and cons.

The choice of Vaccine, whether it is the dead or live virus (made inactive for causing infection). has potential consequences.

My view is that the ‘dead’ vaccine is going to be more safe with less side effects.  But the development of immunity will be less in these vaccines compared to a live vaccine which will creates better immunity against COVID-19.”

Dr Sunil Vyas. Specialist Pulmonology. Aster Hospital. Dubai.

However, Dr. Vyas continues:

“We all have to now to make a decision on vaccination. Remember, there there is no definite drug treatment available for COVID 19.

All we have is the vaccine, and the need to fight Covid is urgent.”

Dr Sunil Vyas. Specialist Pulmonology. Aster Hospital. Dubai.

 

Bottom Line? The SchoolsCompared.com View on Vaccination. 

Whatever the isues with Covid 19 vaccines, they offer hope in 2021

One UK report (“One-in-eight ‘recovered’ Covid patients ‘die within 140 days’), more here, suggests that a significant minority of those who do become infected with Covid 19 and are hospitalised, but which do then survive and are discharged, will fall ill again quickly.

The damage cause by “Long Covid” for survivors is still being calculated and understood – but the negative consequences of Covid 19 infection for those who do survive is widespread and disabling.

The number of younger people catching Covid 19 is growing as a result of the newly evolving variants.

This is not a disease anyone can afford to catch.

However, some parents, students and teachers remain fearful of being vaccinated. Choice on whether to be vaccinated is likely to remain open, but the options for those, over time, who are not vaccinated are likely to constrict.

We have deliberately chosen in this report not to add to the confusion with detailed technical discussions of the vaccines available.

Why?

The one key fact we do know is this.

The ability of our children to return to school safely, and to be able to do so without further risk of lockdown and disruption, is dependent on reducing Covid 19 infection in the UAE to as close to zero as possible.

The lives of many depend on exactly the same thing.

Vaccines provide the only currently available way of achieving this, and minimising the risk of being infected by Covid 19, or minimising its impact in cases of infection. 

No one should underestimate just how lucky we are to be in a nation in which vaccines are so widely available to every one from the age of 16.

The result is a hope for the future, and choice, that far too few nations, their schools, parents and students, even have the luxury to either embrace, or consider.

©SchoolsCompared.com 2021. All rights reserved.

 

Notes for parents

(1) The UAE government is currently aiming to ensure that over 50% of the population is vaccinated by the end of March 2021.

(2) In Dubai, the Pfizer-BioNTech is available at six DHA facilities, including Zabeel Health Centre, Al Mizhar Health Centre, Nad Al Hamar Health Centre, Al Barsha Health Centre, Uptown Occupational Health Screening Centre and Hatta Hospital. UAE residents can register and book appointments for receiving it through the DHA app or the toll-free number 800 342.

(3) Categories of people eligible to get the Pfitzer-BioNTech vaccination include Emiratis, residents over the age of 60, people with chronic diseases, people of determination, frontline workers, vital sector workers and members of the public who want to get vaccinated, these in order of priority.

(3) In support of the National Vaccination Campaign against Covid-19, ADEK is collaborating with relevant health authorities to facilitate vaccination visits from 17th – 26th January 2021 across Private and Charter Schools, offering teachers and school staff the opportunity of being vaccinated during the school day.

(4) Information on where vaccinations are available across all the emirates can be found here.

(5) In Abu Dhabi, no appointment is needed to secure the vaccine at the following locations:

Health facilities

1. Al Bahia Healthcare Centre – Location

2. Baniyas Healthcare Centre – Location

3. Al Bateen Healthcare Centre – Location

4. Al Falah Healthcare Centre – Location

5. Madinat Khalifa Healthcare Centre – Location

6. Al Khatim Healthcare Centre – Location

7. Madinat Mohammad Bin Zayed Healthcare City – Location

8. Al Maqtaa Healthcare Centre – Location

9. Al Mushrif Children’s Specialty Centre – Location

10. Al Samha Healthcare Centre – Location

11. Al Zafaranah Diagnostic and Screening Centre – Location

12. Disease Prevention and Screening Centres, Musaffah – Location

13. Disease Prevention and Screning Centres, Abu Dhabi – Location

14. Seha COVID-19 Vaccination Centre, Mina – Location

15. Al Mafraq Field Hospital – Location

16. Burjeel Hospital – Location

17. Burjeel Medical Centre, Shamkha – Location

18. Burjeel Medical Centre, Shahama – Location

19. Burjeel Medical Centre, Al Zeina – Location

20. Burjeel Medical Centre, Yas Mall – Location

21. Burjeel MHPC Marina Medical Centre – Location

22. Burjeel Day Surgery Centre – Location

23. Medeor 24×7 Hospital – Location

24. LLH Hospital – Location

25. Lifecare Hospital, Musaffah – Location

26. LLH Hospital, Musaffah – Location

27. Lifecare Hospital, Baniyas – Location

28. Burjeel Medical City – Location

29. Mediclinic Al Noor Hospital – Location

30. Mediclinic Airport Road – Location

31. NMC Specialty Hospital, Abu Dhabi – Location

32. NMC Royal Hospital, Khalifa City – Location

33. Bareen International Hospital – Location

34. Capital Health Screening Centre, Al Jazira Sports Club branch – Location

35. Healthpoint Hospital – Location

36. Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, Al Khaleej Al Arabi branch – Location

37. Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, Zayed Sports City – Location

Majlis

1. Al Bateen Majlis – Location

2. Al Manhal Majlis – Location

3. Al Mushrif Majlis – Location

4. Al Wathba Majlis – Location

5. Rabdan Majlis – Location

6. Al Wathba South Majlis – Location

7. The First Emirati Astronaut Majlis – Location

8. Mohamed Khalaf Majlis – Location

Al Ain

Health facilities

1. Al Hayer Healthcare Centre – Location

2. Al Hili Healthcare Centre – Location

3. Al Jahili Healthcare Centre – Location

4. Mezyad Healthcare Centre – Location

5. Al Muwaiji Healthcare Centre – Location

6. Neima Healthcare Centre – Location

7. Oud Al Touba Diagnostic and Screening Centre – Location

8. Al Quaa Healthcare Centre – Location

9. Al Shwaib Healthcare Centre – Location

10. Sweihan Healthcare Centre – Location

11. Al Towayya Children’s Specialty Centre – Location

12. Al Yahar Healthcare Centre – Location

13. Remah Healthcare Centre – Location

14. Disease Prevention and Screening Centres, Al Ain – Location

15. Al Khazna Healthcare Centre – Location

16. Seha COVID-19 Vaccination Centre, Al Ain – Location

17. Tawam Hospital COVID-19 Vaccination Centre – Location

18. Sinayat Al Ain COVID-19 Vaccination Centre – Location

19. Laser Screening DPI Centre, Al Hili – Location

20. Burjeel Royal Hospital – Location

21. Medeor 24-7 International Hospital – Location

22. Mediclinc Al Jowhara Hospital – Location

23. Mediclinic Al Ain Hospital – Location

24. Mediclinic Al Yahar – Location

25. NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain – Location

26. Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, Al Ain – Location

27. Capital Health Screening Centre – Location

28. Amana Healthcare Medical and Rehabilitation Hospital – Location

Majlis

1. Falaj Hazaa Majlis, Al Ain – Location

2. Al Sarooj Majlis, Al Ain – Location

3. Alkhabisi Majlis, Al Ain – Location

4. Um Ghafa Majlis, Al Ain – Location

5. Suwaihan Majlis, Al Ain – Location

6. Al Rhowdha Majlis, Al Ain – Location

7. Zakher Majlis, Al Ain – Location

8. Manazef Majlis, Al Ain – Location

9. Al Dhaher Majlis, Al Ain – Location

10. Al Markhaniya Majlis, Al Ain – Location

11. Al Wiqan Majlis, Al Ain – Location

12. Al Taweyya Majlis, Al Ain – Location

13. Al Reef Majlis, Al Ain – Location

14. Al Mas’oudi Majlis, Al Ain – Location

Al Dhafra

Health facilities

1. Ghayathi Hospital – Location

2. Liwa Hospital – Location

3. Mirfa Hospital – Location

4. Silla Hospital – Location

5. Al Dhafra Family Medicine Centre – Location

6. Delma Hospital – Location

7. Abu Al Abyad Clinic – Location

8. Sir Bani Yas Clinic – Location

9. Burjeel Oasis Medical Centre – Location

10. Mediclinic Madinat Zayed – Location

Majlis

1. Madinat Zayed Majlis, Al Dhafra – Location

2. Delma Majlis, Al Dhafra – Location

3. Mohammed Al Falahi Al Yasi Majlis, Al Dhafra – Location

4. Silla Majlis, Al Dhafra – Location

5. Liwa Majlis, Al Dhafra – Location

6. Mubarak bin Qarran Majlis – Location

Our thanks to the Gulf News for the map data used in these locations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author
Melanie Swan
Special Projects Reporter on SchoolsCompared.com, Melanie Swan is an accomplished news and features journalist, bringing to her role more than two decade's experience of reporting on what really matters at the coal face of human lives. She began her career at the News of The World, part of News International, in London in 2002, before moving to the Sunday People in 2005. Hired to join the launch team of The National in Abu Dhabi, Ms Swan came to the UAE in 2008, and stayed with The National for 9.5 years. "Where there is an important story in Education that needs reporting,"she told us, "I am there to ensure that SchoolsCompared.com readers get it first."

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