7,000 people vaccinated against Covid-19 at Abu Dhabi church

St Joseph’s Church is the first to open its doors for a vaccination drive

Thousands of churchgoers in Abu Dhabi were immunised against Covid-19 after attending Mass at the weekend.

About 7,000 people received the Sinopharm vaccine over two days at St Joseph’s Church as part of a major drive to inoculate residents.

The initial plan was to only vaccinate people who frequent the church but, once word got out about the initiative, the drive was extended to everyone.

Queues stretched outside the church gates, with officials saying most of those eventually vaccinated  were non-churchgoers.

Word got around and more people from outside turned up than members of the church community

St Paul’s Church in Mussaffah is the next and health workers are preparing to vaccinate people this weekend.

"It started up as a drive for members of our church community as we had been talking to Seha about having a drive for the faithful and staff," John E John, director of communication at the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, told The National.

"Then word got around and more people from outside St Joseph’s Church turned up for the vaccination than members of the church community. We, as a community, are ready to extend our wholehearted co-operation with the efforts and initiatives of the UAE government in the fight against Covid-19.”

Priests announced the vaccination schedule during daily Mass at St Joseph’s Church last week.

The drive began at 8am with church officials closing the gates by 7pm on Friday and Saturday to finish vaccinating people inside the compound by 8pm.

The inoculations are being administered in co-operation with health authorities to widen the reach of the Together We Recover campaign.

Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine is available at almost 100 locations in Abu Dhabi alone, according to Seha, the emirate's public hospital regulator.

Prior registrations were not required at the church. A team of 40 doctors, nurses from healthcare company Tamouh and church volunteers registered each resident with their Emirates ID before the vaccine was administered.

“The vaccine drive is a sign of hope in the depressive situation of the pandemic,” Mr John said.

“Knowing that their bishop has taken the vaccine also gave people confidence.”

Bishop Paul Hinder, 78, the pope’s most senior representative in the Arabian Peninsula, took the vaccine last month, as did several parish priests.

A priest at St Joseph's in Abu Dhabi said parishioners had several questions about the vaccine.

“They wanted to know if it was safe, if it was OK to take,” said Fr Darick D’Souza, who volunteered in the Phase-3 clinical trial last year.

“I told them 'I’m fine' and that I took it when it was not proven and the bishop had also taken it.

“I’m very optimistic about the pace at which the government is vaccinating people. Vaccines are the hope now.”

He reminded people they needed to continue to follow safety precautions such as wearing face masks even after taking the vaccine.

Fr Maxim Cardoza, a priest at St Paul’s Church in Mussaffah, said announcements were being made during Mass about vaccinations on January 15 -16.

“We have told people to make use of this opportunity and get vaccinated in the medical camp we will have,” he said.

“There may be some who are apprehensive and watching what others do. We are telling people that together we need to fight against the pandemic. All our priests and staff have taken the vaccine.”

The church is gearing up for interest from people in the surrounding industrial area.

“In our homilies we speak about how it is important to keep ourselves and others safe because all of us want the pandemic to come to an end,” he said.

More than 250,000 people in the UAE have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 with 1,086,568 doses administered so far.