The UAE is to trial the Sinopharm vaccine in children between the ages of 3 and 17 to study their immune response.
The Department of Health Abu Dhabi approved the study and it will be conducted under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and Prevention, the Abu Dhabi Media Office reported on Thursday.
The trial will monitor the immune response to the vaccine in 900 youngsters of different nationalities in preparation to roll out a major vaccine drive soon, authorities said.
Each child will participate with the full consent of their parents and be closely monitored, with their safety the most important concern of the study.
Parents and children will be given details and support at every step of the process.
Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, chairwoman of the National Covid-19 Clinical Management Committee, who is leading the study, said the aim is to ensure children can receive the vaccine safely.
"We want children and parents to understand every step of the process and also to know that we will be with them, supporting them, answering every question they may have, at any time," she said.
UAE parents are being urged to ensure eligible children are vaccinated against Covid-19 to support the drive towards herd immunity and the resumption of in-person teaching at schools.
The country's leading school operators, such as Gems, have already said that Covid-19 vaccines are available for pupils aged between 12 and 15.
Authorities had earlier approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children in that age group on an emergency basis.
Hundreds of pupils aged 16 and over have been inoculated.
The Sinopharm study comes as virus mutations globally lead to an increase in the number of positive cases, including among children, and the severity of their symptoms. This includes transmission of the virus by children, particularly to people at risk.
Dr Ahmed Al Suwaidi, associate professor of paediatrics and infectious diseases at United Arab Emirates University, said research showed vaccines to be safe.
“With vaccines now readily available to protect against Covid-19, we are much closer to ending the pandemic," he said. "In addition, children have been safely receiving vaccines for multiple diseases and viruses for generations. The Sinopharm vaccine is similar in concept to all of these vaccines and we look forward to seeing the results of this study and its effectiveness for children.”
The UAE vaccination programme is one of the world's fastest, with 13.5 million doses administered so far. This represents 136.58 doses per 100 people.
The study’s preliminary results will be announced once available, and will support the planning process for the safe return to schools.