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Posted On: 25 February 2021 09:15 pm
Updated On: 25 February 2021 09:44 pm

An expat's experience in getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Qatar

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DISCLAIMER: The personal opinions and details expressed in this article are the writer's own. Your experience of getting the vaccine in Qatar may be different and it should also be kept in mind that it is dependent on several factors.

The news of the Pfizer vaccine coming to Qatar spread like wildfire during the latter half of 2020, and everyone was eagerly waiting to get their shots. In its initial phase, the government of Qatar decided to vaccinate frontline health care workers, older people and those with chronic medical conditions; and fortunately, or unfortunately I happened to fall under one of those categories.

What has been my experience in getting the vaccine?

An expat's experience in getting the COVID-19 vaccination in Qatar
Image Credit: Anna Bhalla

During the first fortnight in January 2021, I received calls from three different health centres (including Rawdat Al Khail) asking if I would like to take the COVID-19 vaccine. I replied saying I would need to check with my doctor first. I got the green signal from my doctor after which Rawdat Al Khail health centre called back on 20th January 2021. I confirmed the date and time of the first shot with them as it was closest to home. PHCC promptly sent me two SMS’s in English and Arabic languages confirming dates and timing for both shots ensuring a 3-week period in between.

My advice to those reading this is that although the healthcare practitioners are vigilant enough to consult their in-house specialist before administering the vaccine, I would strongly advise those with medical conditions to kindly seek your doctor’s advise as well (prior to your vaccination date).

The first dose of Pfizer vaccine

An expat's experience in getting the COVID-19 vaccination in Qatar
Waiting to get my first dose of the vaccine; Image Credit: Anna Bhalla

Upon entry on 2nd February 2021, the security checked my EHTERAZ App to ensure it is ‘Green’ before directing me to the first floor to get the vaccine. After submitting my Hamad Health Card at the reception, I noticed that strict social distancing was being maintained with gaps of one chair space between people. It took about 30 minutes for me to be called in for the vaccine.

When I entered the vaccination room, the nurse checked my blood pressure and then asked me the following questions and cross-checked with their in-house specialist doctor if it was safe for me to take the vaccine:

  • Do you have any allergies to medicine or any chemicals you know of?
  • Do you take any medications? If yes, what for?
  • Are you diabetic?
  • Are you pregnant or planning for it?
  • Are you breastfeeding?
  • When was your last menstrual cycle?

After this, they informed me about the possible side effects during the next 24-48 hours including:

  • Breathing problems
  • Fever
  • Body pain and/or headache
  • Soreness in the arm where they inject the vaccine

They confirmed that the above side effects are normal and can be treated with a regular OTC paracetamol (Panadol). However, in the case of skin rashes, they advised me to visit the ‘Emergency’ centre.

I took my first dose in the upper left arm. If you are terrified of injections like I am, don’t worry about it. You will barely feel this one as they poke the muscle. Following the first dose, I was asked to wait for 30 minutes before they rechecked my blood pressure to ensure I was doing well. Finally, they gave me the vaccination card that had details of my first dose (date, type, etc.) and the next appointment date and time. They asked me to bring this card for the second shot as well.

The first 24 hours went well. However, I suffered from a severe cold and runny nose symptoms on day 2 (24 – 48 hrs). I took two Panadols during this time and on day 3, the symptoms simply vanished.

A second dose of Pfizer vaccine

An expat's experience in getting the COVID-19 vaccination in Qatar
Image Credit: Anna Bhalla

I went into PHCC, Rawdat Al Khail on 22nd February to get my second shot (three weeks after the first one) with the card they gave me earlier. This time, the crowd was much larger with a queue of people waiting to be vaccinated. I had to wait for 1.5 hours to get vaccinated. The nurses followed the exact same procedure with the blood pressure check and the questions. This time, they did not check with the in-house specialist doctor if I could take the vaccine as they had done this the first time already and I was well post the first dose.

The nurses stated the same warnings as before. However, they did ask me to drink a lot of water post the second shot. They also said the symptoms could be a bit more severe and recommended bed rest for two days (the first 48 hours). Before they discharged me, the nurses also gave me a small note with the website ( name printed for me to download the COVID-19 Vaccine certificate after 7 days (optional).

An expat's experience in getting the COVID-19 vaccination in Qatar
The waiting area outside the vaccination room; Image Credit: Anna Bhalla

I was elated to see that I had barely suffered from any symptoms after my second dose. There was a mild soreness in my arm and lethargy but nothing close to uncomfortable.

According to me, taking it while you have the option seems to be the best solution. I have also been asked if my EHTERAZ has been updated and the answer is no, the vaccination part on my application is blank. The administering of the vaccine at Qatar’s Health Care Centers is being done very carefully and efficiently, keeping all necessary COVID-19 safety measures in place. Now that Moderna has entered Qatar, I hope more people are vaccinated soon. However, it is important to note that the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) advises every one to continue to practice safety measures, even after receiving the vaccine, and I will be doing the same. This will help keep us, our loved ones and our fellow residents/citizens safe.

RELATED: How to register online for COVID-19 vaccine in Qatar

Have you gotten the vaccination in Qatar yet? How has your experience been? Do let us know in the comments below. Do share this article- it keeps us going!

Written by: Anna Bhalla; Edited by: Vrinda Abilash
Cover image credit: Anna Bhalla