Vaccination in the UAE: Can you be too Vaccinated?

AlHosn App displays four vaccines, taken in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on 4 Feb, 2022 (AUD/Heba Alhamarna).

Taking four doses of vaccine did not prevent Chouaib Faik from catching Covid-19. Huddled up in his bedroom, quarantining, the 32-year-old Moroccan graphic designer explained in a phone interview that he had been “in close contact with people who had Covid, and initially I had not displayed any symptoms; however tested positive, with a fever in the days that followed.’’

Faik is one of many who received four doses of vaccines and yet still contracted Covid.

With the rise in Covid cases in the UAE, registering lately more than 2,000 a day, people have taken it upon themselves to get all the vaccines, they can get, some even taking up to five doses. As such, the question on everyone’s mind now is, “can you be too vaccinated?’’

Dr. Adil Sajwani, a family medicine consultant at Fakih University Hospital in Dubai, said, “as of now, our research is limited regarding the vaccines; however, we do know that they are highly efficient.’’ Dr. Sajwani said in an interview via WhatsApp that mixing different vaccines wasn’t new. Doctors have been resorting to this especially when administering polio vaccines for children, without reporting side effects.

Taha Nashawi, a 33-year-old Syrian content creator, has taken two doses of Sinopharm and two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech. He has avoided contracting Covid so far. Nashawi said he felt Covid-like symptoms after receiving the vaccinations. “When receiving the second dose of Sinopharm, I was forced to stay at home for 2-3 days, as I had extensive headaches and shortness in breath, not to mention the general sense of fatigue,” he said in a phone interview. He had a similar experience with the second dose of Pfizer. “I fell ill for a day, with flu symptoms, and with pain around the injection area.” 

Dr. Sajwani said “there are no studies that show the side effects of mixing between Pfizer and Sinopharm. However, this is a protocol applied in the UAE which states whoever received two doses of Sinopharm can receive two vaccinations from Pfizer and there haven’t been any registered cases of extreme side effects so far.”

Dr. Adil Sajwani (Archive).

A study published on the Social Science Research Network open access research platform in September of 2021 found that the antibodies that the body produces in response to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reduced significantly (57%) in just six months, justifying the country’s decision to offer booster shots every six months.

According to the website of the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, 100% of UAE citizens and residents have received a first dose of vaccine. Some 94.35% have received the second dose.

Dr. Sajwani clarified that the reason behind many people taking doses of certain vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech could be due to their desire to travel to countries with different Covid-19 regulations. This was indeed the driving factor for Faik. “Frankly, the main motive behind receiving the vaccines was not protection from Corona, but it was in order to facilitate travel procedures.”

As of February 2022, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are the only two vaccines to have received full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for protecting public health, for people 18 years of age and older.

Heba Alhamarna

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