Study shows how safe differing COVID-19 vaccines are perceived in UAE, Saudi

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With vaccination programs in force across the world, a new international YouGov study shows how safe communities across the world – including in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia - consider the different vaccines to be.

About 48,000 respondents were surveyed between June 6-25, 2021, and the results show that the Pfizer vaccine received a net positive safety score in every country surveyed, meaning that more people in each place considered that vaccine safe than considered it unsafe.

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In both UAE and Saudi Arabia, the Pfizer vaccine received a net positive score of +67 and +61 respectively, with the public seeing the vaccine to be more safe than unsafe.

This is higher than its score in European countries like Bulgaria (+22), Croatia (+46), Romania (+42), Greece and Hungary (+55 each). In fact, the lowest score the Pfizer vaccine received was in Bulgaria (+22), where 48 percent see it as safe compared to 25 percent who see it as unsafe.

Apart from Pfizer, two other vaccines that have received high positive safety scores in UAE and Saudi Arabia are Moderna and AstraZeneca. Between the two countries, UAE residents are more likely than Saudi residents to consider both Moderna (+49 in UAE vs +26 in KSA respectively) and AstraZeneca vaccine (+47 vs +39) safe.

Although AstraZeneca managed to get a positive score in the Middle Eastern countries, it is seen as more unsafe than safe in nine nations. The countries giving it a negative score are all European, including -20 in Italy, -26 in France, -30 in Denmark and -36 in Bulgaria. The highest score the AstraZeneca vaccine received is +62 in Britain – the country from which it originates.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also generally seen as safe globally, although it tends to score much lower than Pfizer and Moderna. It also receives negative net safety scores in three countries: Switzerland (-3), France (-5) and Denmark (-16). Use of the vaccine has been banned entirely in Denmark, following a blood clots scare in May.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is the most likely to be seen as unsafe, receiving a negative net score in 11 places. Ten of these places are in Europe.

People in Bahrain are the most likely to consider the vaccine safe, at +53.

Sinopharm, Sinovac and Covaxin

The study also looked at perceived safety of other vaccines in a smaller portion of countries (as such vaccines are unlikely to ever be used in most of Europe and America).

The Sinopharm vaccine is most likely seen as safe in UAE, at +63. The vaccine also received a net positive score in all Middle Eastern countries, ranging from +5 in Kuwait to +46 in Bahrain and is generally considered to be safe in all 18 markets where the public was asked about the Sinopharm vaccine, except in Taiwan (at -4).

The Gulf states, which have vaccinated large portions of their populations, initially started inoculating residents and citizens with the Sinopharm COVID-19 shot before later introducing other vaccines.

The Taiwanese seem to be even more skeptical of the Sinovac vaccine, giving it a score of -27. Thai people are also torn on Sinovac, with a net score of -1. In the other five places where YouGov asked about Sinovac – Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines – the vaccine received strongly positive scores of between +32 and +66.

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Covaxin, an Indian-developed vaccine, receives positive net scores in all eight places where the public were asked about it, ranging from +8 in Taiwan to +42 in Vietnam.

Four vaccines are currently approved in the Saudi Arabia: Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca-Oxford. The UAE has been running one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns against COVID-19, initially using the Sinopharm vaccine and then adding the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca shots and Russia’s Sputnik V.

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