Illustration by Katie Ferreol.

How NYUAD is Getting Vaccinated for Covid-19

Following the free Covid-19 Sinopharm vaccination campaign on and off campus, we take a look at NYUAD students’ experiences of the vaccination process and what this means for community health.

Since its official registration in December 2020, Sinopharm vaccine for Covid-19 has been available for free at SEHA-affiliated vaccination facilities across Abu Dhabi. In an email from the Office of the Vice Chancellor on Jan. 24, it was announced that a Sinopharm vaccination drive would be hosted on campus over the span of four days, from Jan. 25 to 28. NYU Abu Dhabi students have opted to receive the vaccine both on and off campus, with some even receiving it as early as December 2020.
Citizens and residents opting to take the vaccine off-campus can receive the Sinopharm vaccine without a prior appointment at SEHA-affiliated vaccine facilities in Abu Dhabi. The toll free number 800-50 can be contacted for information on the locations of these vaccine facilities. After entering these vaccine facilities, you will need to present your Emirates ID, get your blood pressure taken, disclose your medical information and fill out a consent form. The whole process should take 45 minutes after which you will receive a text message with appointment details for your second dose.
Over the past week, NYUAD worked with the Abu Dhabi Department of Health and Via Medica International to host a free Sinopharm vaccination drive on campus from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day from Jan. 25 to 28. According to the email sent from the Office of the Vice Chancellor, the drive was open “to all students, faculty, staff and their family members aged 16+ as well as domestic workers who reside in the same household and our contracted colleagues.” Commuting to campus — including from other Emirates — solely for obtaining the vaccine was permitted, but only community members possessing Emirates IDs were eligible for vaccination.
The vaccination drive was set up on the ground floor of A6. Those interested in receiving the vaccine were asked to pick a time slot beforehand in an effort to manage density. On entering the site, participants were asked to provide their Emirates ID, contact information and to fill out a form concerning their medical history. They were then escorted to a socially distanced waiting area and five participants were called at a time.
After being called upon, participants met with medical professionals and answered questions regarding their health and medical history, following which they received the vaccine behind privacy screens.
On the kinds of questions she was asked at this stage, Mari V. Soler, Class of 2022, shared: “Due to medical reasons, I was asked to take a pregnancy test before administering the vaccine. I returned the next day and was told that regulations had changed and the test was no longer necessary unless the person was married. In the end, it was merely a hiccup but it was a little weird to be asked that.”
There were separate, gender-segregated screens and women had priority in the queue. Once participants received the vaccine, they had to undergo a verification process which consisted of receiving the vaccination card with the date for the second dose as well as a copy of the consultation form. They were also told to contact the hotline number in case of any severe reactions.
According to Karno Dasgupta, Class of 2022, the whole vaccination process took him just about 10 minutes when he went to the drive at 3 p.m. on Jan. 26. The email from the Office of the Vice Chancellor states that “the Department of Health will come back to campus to deliver the second dose in the recommended time period (21 to 28 days).”
Dasgupta stated that his only reaction to the vaccine was arm soreness, which is a common side effect of the Sinopharm vaccine.
The Gazelle spoke to Dr. Ayaz Virji, the Medical Director of the Health Center, to understand the Abu Dhabi government’s rationale behind offering the Sinopharm vaccine as opposed to alternatives like Pfizer and Moderna.
According to Virji, the Sinopharm vaccine is advantageous in that it can be stored at regular freezer temperature whereas the Pfizer vaccine is difficult to deliver because it has to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius and most facilities are not equipped to do so.
“[Though the] mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna … can be ramped up really quickly … if there’s a mutation or a [new] strain, [they contain] a chemical polyethylene glycol which people are reacting to," mentioned Virji. This could result in a higher risk of anaphylaxis or allergic complications.
Referring to the lack of published Sinopharm trial data, Dr. Virji commented, “Sinopharm is good technology, it's been around for a long time, it's a dead virus … [it] looks like 86% efficacy rate with maybe 100% efficacy rate in preventing serious illness, but then the disadvantage [is that] we don't have the phase III trials.”
Virji also emphasized that obtaining a Covid-19 vaccine should not preclude us from continuing to follow public health guidelines: “It's [going to] take four weeks after your second shot before you get the maximum protection, and when you look at the studies, after your first shot, the antibody response is very minimal even after 14 days. And after your second shot...after...three or four weeks [you really get] a huge reaction, so we need people to get vaccinated now and follow public health guidelines now, and then in three months from now, we'll know how good we were as a community and as a country because guidelines will get better.”
When asked about the future of campus life given vaccinations, Virji explained that while the goal was to have 100 percent of the campus population vaccinated, regulations were still coupled from different directions and were unlikely to ease immediately. “We are also balancing privacy and confidentiality. We’re not reporting [vaccination numbers] out, we’ve been asked [but] we don’t do that … We want the number to be as high as it possibly can but we are not collecting numbers — we don’t have a magic listing [of who got the vaccine].”
Naeema Mohammed Sageer is Deputy News Editor. Email her at
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