By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Kuwait yesterday authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, while registrations to receive the shots have already begun on the health ministry website. But there are some doubts and uneasiness in the hearts and minds of people. There have been some reported cases of adverse effects on some individuals, besides rumors on social media saying the vaccine might be very unsafe.

Some unverified claims charge taking the vaccine could alter human DNA and could be very dangerous for the next generations. The rumors could ruin the desire of many governments around the world to end the coronavirus pandemic and return to normal life at the soonest. But the reality on the ground reflects the sentiments, comments and reactions of people in Kuwait and their reservations on why they would or would not take the vaccine.

One person asked said she would not take the vaccine unless it is made mandatory for travel. “No vaccine for me. I will not take it. I am in perfect health and don’t have any health issues at all. For the past year, I am okay. I don’t have any sickness. So for me, no vaccine,” said Noof, a Kuwaiti who loves to travel around the world. “The government cannot force us to take the vaccine; however, if they require it to travel, then I will have no choice but to take it,” she said. Noof, 37, enjoys meeting people around the world. “I miss travelling and my wish for 2021 is for the world to get back to the pre-COVID era,” she added.

Sam Parihar, a 28-year-old Indian barber, said if there is a choice, he wouldn’t take the vaccine too. “I have heard about many negative effects of the vaccine on humans, but I don’t know the truth behind it; the reality is that we all need the vaccine right now,” he said.

The ministry of health recently provided a pre-registration link to book appointments for the COVID-19 vaccination, and according to media reports, a large number of citizens and residents have already registered. Preparations to administer the vaccine continue in three governorates, including at the Kuwait International Fairgrounds in Mishref for large crowds of expats.

“I am willing to take it, but I am afraid for my kids to get the shot because of too many reported cases of negative effects. I am in a complete dilemma and I am very afraid for my kids,” said Mark Sanchez, a 47-year-old Filipino father of two. “I don’t feel very comfortable with it because it’s new. We don’t know the effect and impact of it on human beings. I have many unanswered questions, like why the vaccine has to be stored in subzero temperatures? What is the content of the vaccine? Such questions need a clear explanation and I hope before I get vaccinated, I will have good answers. Nonetheless, if the Kuwaiti government requires all expats to take the vaccine, then I have no reason to say no,” he said.

Muhammad Faiz, a Sri Lankan, said he will take the vaccine immediately without a second thought. “We’ve been waiting for it for almost a year now. Why should we doubt it? Our jobs and the economy have been disrupted, and now that it’s available, we do not want it? It is a shame! All of us must take the vaccine. I will take the vaccine and my family is waiting for it too in Colombo,” said Faiz, a 36-year-old taxi driver. He said he registered for the vaccine yesterday.

Abde Ali, a 25-year-old Indian, said his only doubt is whether the vaccine will work for everyone. “We have different body conditions. I am on a regular diet and regularly visit the gym, so I don’t know if it’s OK for me or not. Also, we hope the vaccine will be free for everyone. If they charge us KD 20, for example, it will be very hard for some people, because many have lost their jobs, while others are recovering from months of being unemployed. If they do charge us, I hope it will only range from KD 2 to 5 and not more than that,” he said.