Dubai has expanded the eligibility criteria for COVID-19 vaccination, with women who are breastfeeding as well as those who are planning to conceive now allowed to take the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Furthermore, patients who had COVID-19 no longer need to wait for three months to get the vaccine. They can take it on completion of their isolation, provided the infection was mild or non-symptomatic.
Dr. Farida Al Khaja, CEO of Dubai Health Authority (DHA's) Clinical Support Services and Nursing Sector and Chairperson of the COVID-19 Vaccination Steering Committee, said the decision taken by the COVID-19 scientific committee after due consideration is aligned with international guidelines.
“Any patient who had an active COVID-19 infection must wait until the completion of the isolation period to be vaccinated. If the infection was moderate or severe and required hospitalisation, the timeframe for vaccination after infection will depend on the decision of the medical team that treated the patient. However, all mild cases or cases without symptoms can take the vaccine after completing the isolation period, she said.
Recently, the DHA also reduced the minimum age for some of the available vaccines to 16 years instead of 18 years.
The DHA said the expansion of the eligibility criteria is in line with the latest international studies and guidelines.
Dr. Muna Tahlak, CEO of Latifa Hospital for Women and Children, said: “Clinical studies show that the mRNA vaccine is safe for women who are breastfeeding or planning to conceive unless the patient has certain medical contraindications to vaccines or any vaccine component. Mothers who are breastfeeding can now take an mRNA vaccine as per the latest DHA vaccine guidelines. There is no need to stop breastfeeding before or after vaccination.”
It is important to understand that COVID-19 vaccines are able to create an immune response without causing the illness and that they do not contain a live virus, said Dr. Tahlak.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard have found that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in producing antibodies against the COVID-19 virus in pregnant and lactating women.
The study also demonstrated that vaccines provide protective immunity to newborns through breast milk and the placenta. The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG).
Dr. Tahlak further said mRNA vaccination is also recommended for women who are actively trying to conceive or contemplating pregnancy. “It is not necessary to delay planning a pregnancy until after completing both doses of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Moreover, a routine pregnancy test is not recommended prior to receiving the vaccine.”
Dr. Al Khaja added that DHA has 11 dedicated vaccination centres in Dubai and two mobile clinics for providing home-vaccination for the elderly and those with chronic diseases.
During Ramadan, the centres provide vaccination from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm and from 9.00 pm to midnight Sunday to Thursday.
On Friday and Saturday, the centres will provide vaccinations from 9.00 pm to midnight only. The centres will only be open during the morning slot from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm during the last ten days of the Holy Month. The vaccination centres will be closed on 7 and 8 May.
“The wellbeing and safety of our community is our highest priority. As part of ensuring community members have convenient access to vaccination, we are providing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in locations across Dubai. We are also providing a mobile vaccination option for the elderly and those with chronic diseases. Our aim is to vaccinate 100 per cent of the eligible adult population in Dubai by the end of 2021. The latest expansion in eligibility criteria follows a study conducted by the scientific committee on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for these groups,” Dr Al Khaja said.