Senior doctor in UAE recommends 'very safe' Covid-19 vaccines for children

The Sinopharm vaccine is available for children as young as 3 in the UAE

ABU DHABI, 22nd April, 2020 (WAM) -- Ambulatory Healthcare Services, AHS, a SEHA HealthSystem Facility, announced the launch of the child vaccination drive-through service in a number of selected healthcare centres in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, as a part of its ongoing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. Wam
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A senior doctor in the UAE has recommended all children should be vaccinated against Covid-19, after health officials in the emirates announced a weekly testing rule for school-age teenagers who have not had the jab.

Parents will have a one-month grace period to get their children double jabbed, but once that is over, even vaccinated pupils over 12 will need to be tested every month, as well as schoolchildren aged between 3 and 12 who have not been inoculated.

Getting them vaccinated is the single most important thing that a parent can do for their child at this point
Dr Howard Podolsky, Cambridge Medical and Rehabilitation Centre

Dr Howard Podolsky, group chief executive at the Cambridge Medical and Rehabilitation Centre, said he understood why parents might be worried about vaccinating their children, and sought to reassure them.

"What we've seen so far from the vaccines that are currently available here in the UAE is that they appear to be not only very effective at preventing severe infection and hospitalisation - but they are very, very safe," he said, in an interview with local radio station Dubai Eye.

"In fact, the guidance on vaccines from the FDA [the US Food and Drug Administration] for pregnant women would suggest that these vaccines appear to be extraordinarily safe and protective for our children."

There are two vaccines available for children in the UAE, from Pfizer BioNTech and Sinopharm.

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was made available for teenagers in several countries this year, including the UAE and the EU, where it was approved for over-12s in May.

The World Health Organisation has also advised that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for women to take before, during and after pregnancy.

A Chinese study into the effect of the Sinopharm vaccine on children reported in January that the vaccine appeared safe, but the data has not been released.

A trial of 900 children in the UAE showed no adverse reactions to Sinopharm, and the emirates approved it for use in children aged 3 to 17 in early August.

Dr Podolsky said he had arranged for his son to be vaccinated, despite the lack of paediatric data on the shot created in China.

"We're hoping that perhaps we'll see more. What we do know about the Sinopharm vaccine, especially here in the UAE, is that it's readily available," said Dr Podolsky, who previously worked for Seha as group operations director and chief medical officer at Al Ain Hospital.

"Although children don't always get severe disease when infected with Covid-19, from what we've seen, they can get sick and they can also spread the disease to at-risk adults.

"So getting them vaccinated is the single most important thing that a parent can do for their child at this point."

Vaccination for adults and children in the UAE remains voluntary nationwide, although pupils aged 16, 17 and 18 in Abu Dhabi will have to be vaccinated to attend school in person when the new academic year starts next week. The other emirates have not imposed such strict rules.

Dr Podolsky said he supported the government's drive to vaccinate children.

"Throughout the world, school districts and government agencies have mandated a whole slew of vaccines for children over the years, in order to allow for safe entrance into schools.

"Whether it's measles, mumps and rubella or the polio vaccine - this has been a standard approach to public health and infection control for more than 50 years - perhaps longer.

"It's a very smart, public health initiative, to protect our children, and to help protect the population."

Updated: August 23, 2021, 4:53 PM