Hundreds of pupils and university students in Abu Dhabi have been immunised against Covid-19 at a pop-up clinic for over-12s that opened at Yas Mall on Tuesday.
Children have seized the opportunity to safeguard their health and that of others before the widespread return to classrooms for the new academic year next month.
The temporary centre was launched by Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge in partnership with the emirate’s Department of Health, Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre and Yas Mall.
It will remain open each day from noon to 8pm until Saturday, August 7.
Staff administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and can book appointments for second doses.
Inoculations for children are also available at Seha and Mubadala vaccination centres.
“I took today the first step towards a safe return to school, especially as this is the first time that I return to face-to-face learning since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Omar Ahmad Adnan, 14.
“I am already looking forward to meeting my friends and teachers whom I did not meet all last year. I would like to encourage my friends to get the vaccine as it guarantees our safe return to school, and help protect our community.”
Fellow pupil Hamdan Obaid echoed the sentiment after receiving the shot with his younger brother.
“We are excited to be able to return to school for the next academic year,” Hamdan said.
“We are fully aware that getting the vaccine is a key enabler for a safe return to school. I miss the times I used to have with my friends during break times, and the unique learning experience in classroom.”
Vaccination strategy is central to back-to-school plan
The centre was launched to boost vaccination rates among pupils before the resumption of in-person lessons.
From August 20, people over the age of 16 will be allowed to enter schools, nurseries and universities in Abu Dhabi only if fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The decision does not apply to those with a vaccination exemption registered on Al Hosn app, nor to children aged 15 and under.
Authorities, however, are encouraging pupils aged 12 and above to be inoculated before returning to class.
UAE steps up efforts to immunise children
On Monday, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention approved the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine for use in children between 3 and 17.
Its decision was taken after a trial involving 900 children in Abu Dhabi.
“The decision comes after clinical trials and extensive evaluations and is based on the emergency-use authorisation and local evaluations,” the ministry said.
On Sunday, officials thanked the children who were part of the study to monitor effectiveness and side effects, describing them as heroes.