The Covid-19 vaccine being administered in Qatar is good enough to protect against the new strain of the virus currently found in several countries, a senior official at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has said.

“The new Covid-19 strain is not different from the original virus except for the fact that it is more airborne and therefore, spreads faster," said, Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of vaccination at MoPH.

"In all other aspects, the new strain is very much the same as the original Covid-19. Since Pfizer and BioNTech have conducted extensive research and clinical trials, and based on the scientific information, this vaccine is safe and should protect against the new Covid strain,” she explained.

Dr al-Bayat was interacting with the public in a live question and answer session through MoPH Instagram account as Qatar started vaccinating the population from Wednesday. She answered a number of questions regarding the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine as well as other aspects of vaccination in Qatar.

Asserting that the vaccine is safe, the official said that over a million people have already got vaccinated with this particular vaccine without any major side effects.

“It has been proven to be safe and the side effects are normal, nothing critical or dangerous. Several people in Qatar have taken it on day one and nobody has reported any major issues. It is just like any other vaccine for other diseases and is being extensively given in several countries.” she explained.

She also said that Qatar has so far signed agreement for vaccine only with Pfizer and Moderna. “These are very reliable drug companies and we have been getting several other medicines from these firms for a long time. After the completion of phase one, we will widen it to other sections of the society. We hope to cover the young adults in phase two or three,” she continued.

Dr al-Bayat, however, noted that all those who have taken the vaccine should follow all the Covid-19 protocols for some time. “Everyone has to follow all the Covid protocols and guidelines issues by MoPH. After 21 days of the vaccination, they should get the second dose and only after that, they will get full immunity. When some 70 to 75% people are vaccinated, there can be herd immunity and people can be fully protected against the disease,” she maintained.

While it is not mandatory to get vaccinated, the official encouraged everyone to get vaccinated. “You have to protect yourself to protect your loved ones and others around you. The safety of the population is increased when you get the vaccination and the only way out to go back to the pre-Covid era,” she highlighted.

Dr al-Bayat also said that all arrangements have been done at the seven health centres where the vaccine is provided. “We have made all the arrangements for the smooth and safe vaccination at the health centres. After vaccination, people will have to wait at the health centres for about 20 to 30 minutes and will be monitored for any side effects. On the first day of vaccination everything went on smoothly,” she added.

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