Bahrain’s Tale of COVID-19, Medicine, and Vaccination
Pandemic National Case Studies
“What’s in the pan, the spoon will dig out.” -Bahraini proverb
The Middle Eastern island nation of Bahrain enjoys one of the world’s 25 wealthiest economies, per capita (excluding tiny nations). Finance, manufacturing, and a growing tourism industry mean that Bahrain does not depend solely on oil and gas. Located across the King Fahd Causeway from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain shares a past history with Iran that leaves the fast-growing population of Bahrain in a tense geopolitical position, though stability has prevailed there for several decades despite a few political bumps in the road. Like most of the Sunni governed nations in the region, Bahrain met the pandemic by providing medical treatment to those infected with SARS-CoV-2 as early as possible.
Bahrain’s Experience With Early Treatment During the Pandemic
Sitting off the shore of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain is one of the world’s most densely populated nations. Bahrain should be an easy target for a fast-spread virus. Bahrain committed to hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) treatment of COVID-19 patients by late February, right around the time they saw their first case. You might not even know that Bahrain fought through one the three worst outbreaks of coronavirus during the early pandemic (on a population basis) because so few Bahrainis died of the illness. Bahrain’s CFR has hovered around 0.4%, a small fraction of that of the rest of the world. Bahrain’s top medical official credited HCQ with containment.
Bahrain’s Vaccination Campaign
Bahrain began its vaccination program on December 23, 2020 and quickly became one of the world’s most vaccinated nations, making use of numerous different vaccines including Sinopharm, Prizer-BioNtech, AstraZeneca-Oxford, Sputnik V, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In mid-January, Bahrain launched a mobile door-to-door campaign aimed at reaching those unable to commute or who were otherwise deemed “high risk”. Six months into their mass vaccination program, Bahrain began offering booster shots, including the mixing of brands.
No sooner had the vaccination program begun, COVID-19 cases spiraled out of control in one of the single worst outbreaks of any nation during the pandemic. As of late October, 2021, Bahrain now has the third highest cumulative case total among all nations with a population of at least two million.
Confirmed new cases peaked on May 29, 2021, then began to fall precipitously, just as the number of newly vaccinated began to flatten out. Testing for SARS-CoV-2 infections increased somewhat, but remained largely flat during the massive case spike. By July, Bahrain was using monoclonal antibodies to treat patients.
Prior to the vaccine rollout, Bahrain had pushed its case fatality rate to a mere 0.08%, one of the lower fatality rates for COVID-19 sufferers in the world. After the vaccine rollout, that mortality rate skyrocketed 14-fold.
Bahraini officials attributed 90% of COVID-19 cases to the unvaccinated in early June.