Illustration by Fatima Alrebh.

I Took The Sinopharm Vaccine. Here's Why You Should Too.

Being able to take the vaccine so early on is both a privilege and a blessing. More importantly, it represents an opportunity to protect ourselves and our community while moving towards a degree of normalcy.

Jan 31, 2021

Over the last year, we have all desperately waited for a scientific miracle that would end this pandemic. That miracle, that vaccine, is here now. And for those of us at NYU Abu Dhabi, this miracle has come a lot sooner than it has for others. As some look to the summer for their first chance at receiving the vaccine and others know they must wait even longer, we had our first on campus vaccination drive just this week.
Vaccination is an opportunity to protect our health and that of our community. Whether vaccination prevents transmission is an open question, but what is conclusively established is that it prevents illness to a great degree. Indeed, even if we do contract Covid-19, vaccination has been shown to be highly effective in preventing serious forms of the illness. Many of us have spent the last year in fear of the virus. Some of us have underlying medical conditions that put us at increased risk. Some of us have fought it off. Some of us know someone who lost that battle. Vaccination, in large part, is an opportunity to make ourselves and those around us safe, as well as reduce the everyday fear of this virus.
A vaccinated student body also provides us with an opportunity to return to a degree of normalcy. As more and more students get vaccinated, the likelihood that we might be able to hug our friends, return to in-person classes and activities and resume our normal lives in the near future increases. As Vice Chancellor Mariet Westermann noted in a recent email, the university anticipates a potential gradual relaxation of health and safety protocols once a large percentage of the campus population has been vaccinated. Even as we must continue to observe rules and regulations, their end seems to be in sight.
Why then, have some of us been hesitant to take the vaccine? Over the last month, I have heard a lot of different reasons. Some are skeptical of a “Chinese” vaccine. Others think they might be able to receive a “Western” vaccine — with all the significant social capital that will provide — in their own home countries somewhere down the road. Some are just skeptical of vaccines in general. Some have given in to unsubstantiated rumors of debilitating side effects. Some of these concerns are genuine, at least to a degree. Others say more about the nature of fear-mongering and the widespread dissemination of conspiracy theories on social media.
It is, for example, true that Sinopharm — the state owned Chinese firm whose vaccines are being widely distributed in the UAE — has been slow to release complete data from its vaccine trials. But given that the vaccine has safely been distributed to millions, uses a reliable and well- tested method of delivery and produces a notable immune response, it is imperative that we at least ask if our hesitation to take the Sinopharm vaccine stems more from Sinophobia than it does from genuine health concerns. Admittedly, political freedom in China is extremely limited, and its treatment of its Uyghur minority has been nothing short of abhorrent. But the idea that China, a global powerhouse in scientific innovation, would inject the entirety of its 1.4 billion people with a dangerous vaccine sounds extremely fantastical. That such belief has taken root perhaps says more about our biases and inhibitions than it does about the Sinopharm vaccine or Chinese innovation in general.
It is also true that in the Eurocentric, Sinophobic world we live in, receiving a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine might just open more doors and raise fewer eyebrows in the long run. However, the distribution of these vaccines has almost exclusively been captured by the Global North. For so many of us, it might be years before we can receive these vaccines. Even for those of us hailing from countries where these vaccines are being distributed, it will be a long time before they are readily available for the young and healthy. Given that we have the opportunity to protect our health and the health of our community at this very moment, it seems incredibly irresponsible to gamble it away for a chance to receive a “sexier” vaccine down the road.
Being able to take the vaccine so early on is both a privilege and a blessing. More importantly, it represents an opportunity to protect ourselves and our community while moving towards a degree of normalcy. Even if hesitation to take the vaccine among the campus community is rooted in concern about the safety and perception of the Sinopharm vaccine, it is important that we reflect on the Sinophobia and Eurocentrism driving some of these concerns. We owe it to ourselves, our friends and the NYUAD community to not squander this opportunity.
Sobha Gadi is Senior Opinion Editor. Email him at
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