Manama, Dec. 15 (BNA): The National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) today held a press conference at the Crown Prince Centre for Training and Medical Research at the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital, to provide an update on the COVID-19 response in Bahrain.
The Taskforce emphasised efforts are ongoing to expedite the implementation of the National Vaccination Programme, a core component of the Kingdom’s comprehensive response to bolster mitigation efforts and combat COVID-19.
The Taskforce commended HM the King’s Royal Directives to provide a safe vaccine free of charge to all citizens and residents within the Kingdom, underscoring HM the King’s continued commitment to safeguarding the health of the community.
Opening the press conference, the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health and Member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), HE Dr. Waleed Khalifa Al Manea, highlighted the Kingdom’s relentless efforts combating COVID-19 and current success controlling the number active cases.
HE Dr. Al Manea stressed the importance of public participation in the vaccine programme in order to protect all members of society, indicating that those wishing to register for vaccination, aged 18 and above, should register through the Ministry of Health’s website at www.healthalert.gov.bh
HE Dr. Waleed concluded his remarks by expressing his gratitude to the health sector workforce for their readiness to receive those wishing to get the vaccination at 27 health centres across the Kingdom. HE Dr. Waleed further reiterated the importance of following all precautionary measures to ensure the eradication of the virus.
Furthermore, the CEO of the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) and Member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Dr. Mariam Al Jalahma, highlighted the Kingdom’s commitment to follow international developments regarding COVID-19, including recommendations from the World Health Organization, when considering approvals such as that of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the Emergency Use Authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Dr. Al Jalahma emphasised that the approval of both vaccines has taken place following a thorough analysis and review undertaken by the Authority of all available data, as part of a three stage multi-step approval process. Within the initial stage, detailed data on the vaccines clinical trials, results of the initial studies, as well as manufacturing process and material regulations, were reviewed by a technical team under the Pharmaceutical Products Regulation Department.
The Second Stage included a review of the safety and efficacy data, with the results of the studies presented to the Authority’s Scientific Committee for Clinical Research – a team comprising of medical doctors, researchers, and academics – who then presented the information to the Ministry of Health’s vaccination committee for approval, as the final stage of the approval process.
Dr. Al Jalahma emphasised the Kingdom’s stringent regulatory procedures, noting that the data reviewed for both vaccines have demonstrated their safety and effectiveness, through clinical trials conducted across the world, with preliminary results indicating no significant adverse reactions.
Dr. Al Jalahma explained that the side effects experienced by volunteers, such as pain at the injection site, headache, high temperature or fatigue are expected symptoms lasting hours or 24 hours at most.
Turning to the vaccines efficacy rate, Dr. Al Jalahma highlighted that the results from Phase III clinical trials of Sinopharm’s vaccine showed an 86% efficacy rate, a 99% seroconversion rate of neutralizing antibody and 100% effectiveness in preventing moderate and severe cases of COVID-19, following testing on 42,299 volunteers across several countries. For the Pfizer vaccine, clinical trials tested on 43,548 individuals yielded an efficacy rate of 95% respectively, adding that the World Health Organization requires an efficacy rate of 50% to satisfy the test of an effective vaccine.
Dr. Al Jalahma clarified that regardless of the speed of approval and manufacturing, the safety and the quality of each vaccine have been monitored closely, with clinical trials and phase studies shortened to combine a larger number of volunteers to assess a safe immune response from a larger sample.
Dr. Al Jalahma noted that the companies producing vaccines began the manufacturing process during the completion of the third phases of the clinical trials, to ensure a large and sufficient number of vaccines are ready to be distributed worldwide upon approval.
Dr. Al Jalahma reiterated the NHRA’s commitment to safeguarding the health and safety of all, noting the Authority’s efforts to ensure the provision of a safe and effective vaccine for citizens and residents in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Dr. Al Jalahma concluded by urging all to register online for the vaccination.
For his part, the Infectious Disease Consultant & Microbiologist at the BDF Hospital and member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Lt. Col. Dr. Manaf Al Qahtani, discussed the differences between vaccines in terms of side effects, the method of taking the vaccine, its doses, and the target populations. In this regard, Dr. Al Qahtani noted the safety of both vaccines, adding that some of the general side effects experienced include moderate pain and swelling at the sight of the injection, headache, fatigue and a slight fever, which can be controlled using over the counter pain relievers.
Explaining the methods of vaccination and the number of administered doses, Dr. Al Qahtani highlighted that the vaccine will be injected into the muscle of the arm, and given in two doses, separated by 21 days. Dr. Al Qahtani further highlighted that both vaccines can be taken by adults aged 18 years and above.
Dr. Al Qahtani went on to emphasise the importance of registering to take the vaccine, adding that if any individual has previously had COVID-19, they should wait 90 days after infection to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Al Qahtani further emphasised that the immune response differs from one person to the other, noting that sufficient immunity response may not be formed to protect a vaccinated person from infection with the virus, but taking the vaccine may provide protection from moderate to severe infection.
Dr. Al Qahtani concluded by speaking about the importance of continuing to adhere to all the precautionary measures, and to not disseminate false information regarding the vaccinations.
The Consultant of Infectious and Internal Diseases at Salmaniya Medical Complex and Member of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Dr. Jameela Salman, highlighted the Kingdom’s ongoing success in its comprehensive response combating COVID-19, with infection rates continuing to stay low, and community awareness continuing to support mitigation efforts therefore ensuring the Kingdom’s community remains safe.
Dr. Al Salman emphasised that all necessary measures have been taken to ensure the success of the National Vaccination Programme, and reiterated that the vaccine is safe and effective and has been approved by the NHRA following extensive studies and reviews in accordance with international best practice. In this regard, Dr. Al Salman reiterated the importance for citizens, residents and their families, aged 18 and above, to register for the vaccination.
Dr. Al Salman highlighted that the vaccine will protect the community, whilst noting the importance of continuing to follow all precautionary regulations and observing social distancing.
Dr. Al Salman concluded the press conference by underscoring the Ministry of Health’s continued efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus through expanding daily testing to ensure faster recovery rates.