He explained that frontline healthcare workers and the high risk category – including those aged above 50 and with chronic conditions – can opt for the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot three months after their second dose.
Meanwhile, others can take a booster of their choice six months after the second shot.
“There are two main reasons for administering booster doses,” said Dr Al Qahtani.
“One, it strengthens immunity which varies for individuals."
Second, the pandemic has been going on for more than two years. The virus will have variants and the best method to tackle it is taking boosters, as we have seen with other diseases in the past.
He further explained that booster doses of Sinopharm have been rolled out as the Chinese vaccine was the first to be administered in Bahrain as early as the end of last year.
Also, traditional vaccines have a limited period of immunity, ranging from six to 12 months, or even less. It depends on various factors including mutants, which could impact each individual in a different way.
We decided to launch booster shots to activate immunity and not because the vaccine is weak, as claimed by a few.
The allegation is baseless.
Even Pfizer and Moderna have announced the need for a booster dose, but the timing could be different.
“We have set a timeline and contacted Sinopharm. We will do the same with the other vaccines in the coming days as well,” he said, reiterating the efficacy of all four vaccines in Bahrain.
He reiterated that infections among those inoculated ranged between one to 2pc for all vaccines.
He was speaking alongside Health Ministry Under-Secretary Dr Waleed Al Manea and senior taskforce member and Salmaniya Medical Complex Infectious and Internal Diseases consultant Dr Jameela Al Salman.
The officials also addressed a number of public queries, mostly related to Sinopharm, which they received on its email COVID19@moh.gov.bh.
Dr Al Qahtani said people who recovered from Covid-19 this year and took both shots had a longer immunity span, and hence do not need a booster.
“If anyone had taken one dose before getting infected with Covid-19, they can take the second jab 21 days after recovery.
“An unvaccinated individual who has recovered from Covid-19 can take one booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech -- as that is the only company which reasoned it scientifically, while all other vaccines need two shots.”
He added that yet another objective of booster dose was to achieve herd immunity and protect the individual from infection.
He also clarified that mixing vaccines was not new, citing those for H1N1 and Ebola as examples from the past.
“It is one of the largest strategies used to enhance antibodies,” he added.
Addressing concerns on Sinopharm not being accepted by other countries and its impact on travel procedures, Dr Al Manea reiterated that the vaccine was approved locally and internationally by specialised entities including the World Health Organisation.
However, he underlined that travel protocols of other countries were an administrative issue.He also asserted that the drop in the number of active cases had no link with the reduced number of daily PCR tests.
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