Schools in Abu Dhabi will host a week-long vaccination drive against Covid-19 from Sunday.
Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge sent a text alert to parents on Tuesday to inform them that children can be immunised during the final week of term.
The emirate's private education regulator urged parents to get in touch with their children’s school for more information.
“In response to your interest in safeguarding the school community, we are happy to inform you that we have arranged an in-school Covid-19 vaccination drive during the period 5-9 December for [pupils], in partnership with Health Authorities and Seha,” the text message said.
“We advise you to make use of this priority service prior to the winter break.
“Kindly contact your school for more information on the arrangements for your school.”
The department issued a questionnaire to parents in late October to gauge their interest in having their children vaccinated in schools.
It asked which vaccine parents would like to give their children, either Sinopharm or Pfizer-BioNTech, when it became available for their child’s age group, if it was not already. Pfizer has been available to children age 12 to 15 in the UAE since May.
Sinopharm has been available for children age 3 and above since August.
And the authorities approved Pfizer for use in children age 5 to 11 on an emergency basis on November 1, after it was shown to be 90.7 per cent effective against symptomatic infection.
Pfizer will be available to children age 5 to 11 during the December school vaccination drive. But nursing staff and give advice on eligibility, an Adek spokesman said.
Some schools will have their own pop-up vaccination centres on site. But pupils will also be offered the option to visit dedicated centres on a walk-in basis during the week.
Schools will be able to advise on where pupils can attend during the week-long drive if they do not have a pop-up vaccination centre on site, an Adek spokesman said.
The regulator has introduced the Blue Schools initiative in the emirate, which allows schools to ease coronavirus restrictions for higher vaccination rates.
As of mid-November, about 107,000 pupils – 39 per cent of the school population in the capital – had been vaccinated, authorities said.
Grace Valley Indian School was the first to achieve the top Blue tier status – for hitting the milestone 85 per cent vaccination mark – allowing it to lift some coronavirus restrictions such as the wearing of masks outdoors and physical distancing.
Covid-19 and children
The vast majority of children experience mild symptoms only, or none at all.
However, they can and do catch the coronavirus and transmit it, and a small number become very sick or die as a result.
Doctors in South Africa have seen an increase in child hospital admissions since the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Children aged 2 and under made up the highest percentage of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital in the city of Tshwane in Gauteng, the South African centre of the outbreak in the last two weeks of November. There were more than 60 hospital admissions in the age group during the period.
Far fewer children age 5 to 9 were admitted – about 20 in total – during the two weeks. But admissions still represented about 10 per cent of the city's total cases in this age group.
More than 30 per cent of those treated in hospital age 5 to 9 had “severe disease", the authorities said.
And only about 5 per cent of those admitted in the age group had underlying conditions.
There were no deaths in the 5 to 9 age group in the two-week period.