UAE to promote vaccine awareness in major public health campaign

The National Policy on Vaccinations aims to help combat diseases and reduce risks to society

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The UAE will embark on a drive to promote vaccination as part of a national health campaign.

The Cabinet, headed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, approved a country-wide policy on immunisation on Monday.

The National Policy on Vaccinations aims to ensure high-quality vaccines and preventive care for many illnesses - not just Covid-19 - are widely available in the Emirates.

Other main objectives include raising awareness of the importance of immunisation as well as supporting innovation and research.

It also includes a push to promote a healthy lifestyle as the best defence against many diseases. Many governments have realised the extent to which high rates of obesity and diabetes, among other lifestyle conditions, make people susceptible to severe forms of Covid-19, among other illnesses.

According to the Cabinet, the UAE's new policy will apply across sectors and provides a framework for combating communicable diseases and reducing their risks to individuals and society.

The Minister of Health and Prevention, Abdulrahman Al Owais, said the ministry would would do all it could to support the policy by "ensuring the provision of the best immunisation services and providing quality vaccines that comply with the highest international standards and national safety practices."

The policy was announced as countries race to develop a vaccine against the virus that causes Covid-19.

There are currently six research laboratories in Phase 3 of World Health Organisation-recognised clinical trials for a vaccine. Among them is one developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm that is undergoing trials in the UAE.

Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, undersecretary of Department of Health Abu Dhabi, said that when a vaccine is ready, there would be a campaign to inform and educate the public and dispel any myths that may exist.

"It is really important to give [the public] information about the vaccine – how safe it is – and how effective it is."

"People have uncertainty about all the different types of vaccine being developed right now around the world, because they don’t think they will actually be part of a vaccination campaign soon," he said.

"But this will change soon when we see a vaccine that is approved - and I think people will realise how important it is to get one."

More than 31,000 volunteers have taken part in the study in Abu Dhabi, authorities said in late August. All volunteers who received both doses of the vaccine were found to have developed antibodies against the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus, officials said.

Vaccines are mandatory for children in the UAE from birth until they reach grade 11.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention issues a vaccination card for children to record their immunisations and ensure they are compliant with the National Immunisation Programme.

The number of cases involving infectious diseases in the UAE has fallen significantly since the programme was introduced in1980.

In 1993, the UAE was declared a polio-free country. There has also been a significant drop in the number of cases involving measles, mumps and rubella, and whooping coughs.