Vaccine FAQs

Vaccinations represent one of the most monumental advances in science and medicine and save millions of lives each year. We are more hopeful than ever that the combination of these new, effective coronavirus vaccines, with continued public health measures, will end the global pandemic.

Fortunately, the Dubai Health Authority has approved two safe and effective vaccines to be used against COVID-19. The Chinese Sinopharm mass vaccine program was launched on December 15, 2020 and is now available at the Field Hospital in Dubai Parks and Resorts (long lines can be expected). Additionally and recently, Dubai has launched the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday December 23, 2020.

While the Sinopham vaccine was developed using the traditional technology of many existing vaccines (injecting inactivated viral particles to elicit an immune response), you may have questions surrounding the new mRNA vaccine, how it works, who should be vaccinated, the risks and benefits, and most importantly, how and where to access it. 

We answer some of these questions in the FAQs below.


The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a vaccine that can protect you from getting COVID-19 and from getting complications associated with the virus. Rather than using inactivated or attenuated viral particles, this vaccine contains the mRNA sequence for the coronavirus spike protein. mRNA (or messenger RNA) is the genetic material our cells read (or translate) to make proteins. The injected mRNA is encased in a lipid coat to deliver the mRNA into your cell without being digested by your enzymes and destroyed. The protected mRNA code enters into your cell and operates in the cytoplasm, harnessing your immune system’s ability to read the code and make proteins. The injected mRNA actually codes for the coronavirus spike protein, so your cells start producing these coronavirus spike proteins. Your cells produce ONLY the coronavirus spike proteins; they cannot produce the actual virus. The appearance of these harmless spike proteins in your cells triggers your immune system to generate the classic B-cell antibody response. This prepares your immune system to be able to effectively fight off the virus if you become exposed and infected in the future. The mRNA from the vaccine is eventually destroyed by your cells without any permanent trace. At the end of this process, you are left with memory B cells and T cells programmed and ready to protect you from coronavirus and its complications without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19. Here’s a quick video illustrating how the mRNA technology works.

No. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does not contain SARS-CoV-2 and cannot give you COVID-19. The mRNA in this vaccine is not part of the actual virus and so cannot make you sick with COVID-19. In addition, the mRNA does not modify or affect your cell’s DNA as it never enters the cell’s nucleus where your DNA lives.

The first phase of the Pfizer-BioNTech campaign will target certain high priority groups who are Emirati citizens and Dubai residents. These high priority groups are defined as: people above the age of 60, those with certain chronic high risk conditions, people of determination, and frontline workers (such as healthcare professionals).

Are Teachers Eligible? Anyone who is a teacher above the age of 60 or with a chronic high-risk condition would be eligible for the vaccine at this time. Unfortunately, if you do not meet these criteria, then you cannot get the vaccine in Dubai at this time. The first phases of the campaign only include healthcare workers and those in vital sectors such as ambulance and police workers. Eventually, the vaccine will become available to all individuals above the age of 18 who wish to take it.

Can my kids get the vaccine? No, not yet. Clinical trials are still ongoing to establish safety and efficacy in the pediatric population. At this time the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is only approved in Dubai for people 18 years of age and older and in the US for people 16 years of age and older.

What if I am pregnant or breastfeeding? If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, discuss your options with your doctor as clinical trials for these special groups are still ongoing.

What if I don’t fit the above criteria but still want to get the vaccine? Don’t worry, the vaccine will eventually be made available to all individuals who wish to receive it. At this time the campaign is prioritizing the high risk groups who are more likely to get exposed to the virus and/or are more susceptible to serious complications and even death if they get infected.

You should not get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of this vaccine, or if you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of this vaccine. Please talk to your doctor about the vaccine if you have a history of severe allergies.

There is no evidence at this time to suggest that these mutations will make the current vaccines ineffective. Although the SARS-CoV-2 virus does appear to be mutating as expected, experts believe that new variants of the virus will still be vulnerable to our powerful vaccines. Fortunately, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is mutating at a much slower rate than other RNA viruses and there is no evidence to suggest that these variants are more deadly. The most recent alarming variant circulating in some parts of Europe and South Africa at the moment is more infectious and more easily transmitted to others, but is not more dangerous. Virus mutations are not always a bad thing for humans; they can actually make our immune systems more efficient at clearing the virus. Furthermore, a mutated strain in circulation does not mean the original strain will disappear, and so we would want to make sure we are still well protected against the original strain. In addition, vaccines prepare the immune system to attack different parts of the virus, so even if the spike protein mutates, the vaccine should still be effective against the virus. Here’s a video which briefly discusses SARS-CoV-2 mutations and vaccine efficacy.

If you are eligible for the first phase of the campaign, then you can easily book your appointment by calling DHA’s toll free number 800-342. If you already have a Medical Record Number (MRN), have it handy as you will need it in order to make an appointment. If you do not have a MRN, you can ask the DHA agent to help you to obtain one over the phone. Once the MRN has been generated (or confirmed, if you already have one), the call center representative will be able to book your appointment for you over the phone. Alternatively, you can book your appointment through DHA’s smartphone App (you must have an MRN in order to book via the App). Stay tuned for the launch of subsequent phases of the vaccine campaign which will eventually allow most individuals above the age of 18 without any contraindications to get the vaccine. 

You can get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the following vaccination centers in Dubai:

  • Za’abeel Health Center
  • Al Mizhar Health Center
  • Nad Al Hamar Health Center
  • Al Barsha Health Center
  • Up-Town Occupational Health Screening Center
  • Hatta Hospital

Bring your Emirates ID, passport (just in case you are asked for it), and a list of medications that you are currently taking. 


  • If you are taking the Pfizer vaccine, arrive at least 20 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment and carry a medical report if your eligibility is based on a chronic condition.
  • If you are taking the Sinopharm vaccine, please have some water, snacks and a good book with you as extremely long wait times have been reported.

Do I have to pay for the vaccine? No, the DHA will provide the vaccine free of charge as part of its vaccination campaign.

How many doses of the vaccine do I need? You will need 2 doses of the vaccine 21 days apart to ensure full protection against the virus. Please make sure to book your booster dose of the same vaccine brand 21 days from your first dose to complete the series.

What are the side effects of the vaccine? Possible and typical side effects include pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle or joint pain, fever, chills, nausea, or swollen lymph nodes. Having these side effects is a good sign that your immune system is responding well to the vaccine and getting primed and ready to fight the virus. Very rarely severe allergic reactions can occur after vaccines. Talk to your doctor about the vaccine if you have a history of severe allergies.

Can I still take the vaccine if I already got infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus? Yes, you may still take the vaccine if you had COVID-19, but you must wait for 3 months from the date of your infection.

Can I still get the vaccine if I recently had another vaccine (such as Influenza)? Yes, but you must wait for 4 weeks before getting the coronavirus vaccine.

Can I get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine if I recently took a different COVID-19 vaccine such as the Sinopharm vaccine? No, at this time you will not be permitted to take a different COVID-19 vaccine from the one you have already taken. It is best to complete the series with the same type of vaccine.

Talk to your doctor about your options. You can consider getting the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine which is also available in Dubai for free at both public and private medical centers. UAE nationals and foreign residents above the age of 18 are eligible to take the vaccine. The technology used in this vaccine is a well established one where inactivated viral particles are injected into your arm, preparing your immune system to protect you from the virus if exposed. The vaccine leads to 86% efficacy against the virus based on the current data from phase III trials.

To register for the Sinopharm vaccination, contact the SEHA call center at 800 50 to make your appointment. Please have your valid Emirates ID and your Ministry health card or Medical Record Number handy to help book your appointment. The Sinopharm vaccine will be administered in 2 doses 3 weeks apart. After your first dose, you will be notified of the date of your second dose via SMS. The vaccine is currently only offered to residents 15 years of age and older, with parental consent. 

The Sinopharm vaccine is now available at the following locations in Dubai:

Timings: Sunday- Thursday from 8:00am to 10:00pm
Call the SEHA call center at 800 50 to book your appointment.

  • Emirates Field Hospital in Dubai Parks and Resorts (8:00am-5:00pm)
  • Al Ittihad Health Center 04 342-1005
  • Hor Al Anz Health Center 04 215-3999
  • Al Qusais Health Center 04 231-6400

No, you can no longer get the Sinopharm vaccine at another emirate if you are a Dubai resident. If you reside in Dubai, then you must go to the vaccine locations in Dubai.

The efficacy of a vaccine tells us how well a vaccine works. Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness. Based on data from phase III trials, the Sinopharm vaccine is 86% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness. These rates are far better than our efficacy rates for other vaccines (about 45-50% for the influenza vaccine for instance).

No, even after you have completed your vaccine series, you must still follow strict public health precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distance when you are with others outside of your home. Long term studies are still ongoing to establish for how long immunity will last, and also much is still unknown about whether or not a vaccinated person may still transmit the virus to others. The combination of getting the COVID-19 vaccination and following health and safety precautions is the best way to protect each other from the virus.

You will continue to be required to follow government guidelines regarding travel in the UAE and in other countries. Please be sure to check those guidelines through official sources prior to making travel arrangements.

No, at this time the DHA is not requiring individuals to get the vaccine. ASD also does not require the vaccine but does strongly recommend talking to your doctor about it, especially if you are above the age of 60, have a high-risk condition, or are a frontline worker.