Head teachers have urged older pupils to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to help to make the UAE's schools a safe environment.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Health and Prevention approved the use of the coronavirus vaccine for teenagers aged 16 and above.
Previously, anyone under the age of 18 was not allowed to be inoculated against the virus.
It is understood that teenagers will receive the Sinopharm vaccine, which is one of two approved by authorities in the Emirates.
The drug was approved for nationwide use on December 9. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was first administered in Dubai two weeks later. Free and voluntary vaccination campaigns are under way for both.
“We are delighted to hear that the Covid-19 vaccination will now be offered to pupils aged 16 and above,” said Luke Osborne, deputy head at Swiss International Scientific School, a day and boarding school in Dubai.
“This is certainly light at the end of the tunnel for the older secondary pupils of Dubai.
“After a period of significant academic disruption for this cohort, it is a welcome move towards securing the safety and continuity of their final steps of secondary education.”
The school has 1,200 pupils, 32 of them boarders.
“As a boarding school, we have a duty to care for our pupils. This news will also give peace of mind to our boarders, their parents and the boarding staff," Mr Osborne said.
Paul Slater, vice president of operations and health, safety and environment at Gems Education, urged teenagers to take the Covid-19 vaccine if they were permitted to do so.
“We welcome all steps taken in the fight against Covid-19 and in the best interests of pupils, teachers and the wider community,” he said.
"We will continue to work closely with the authorities to safeguard every member of our schools and to ensure we are up to date with all the latest developments and directives."
Heads of schools said getting vaccinated would also help pupils when they had to go abroad for higher studies.
“At a general level, this will mean that a larger portion of the population can be vaccinated more quickly,” said Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park.
“For children over the age of 16 this is good news in terms of protecting themselves from future infection and better positioning themselves for future university or other tertiary studies.
“Obviously, the more children that are vaccinated against the virus, the easier it is for protocols and regulations within these year groups."
Mr Fulton said international exams such as the IB, International A-levels and IGCSEs may still go ahead and the vaccination could ensure safety for pupils who are due to sit these exams.
UK examinations – GCSEs and A-levels – have already been cancelled this year.
Iain Colledge, principal at Raha International School in Abu Dhabi, said the school intended to bring back all pupils on February 7, a plan put into place before the news on vaccinations for teenagers was announced.
“Our return to school plan remains unchanged. It has always been our intention to welcome pupils back to school at a time the authorities feel is safe," Mr Colledge said.