UAE parents were 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 rallying call was issued by Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the state health sector, who praised the public for their support of the mass inoculation campaign.
Dr Al Hosani said the widespread uptake of vaccines – more than 11.5 million doses have been administered since December – had led to a decline in the number of infected people requiring hospital treatment.
She said a third booster dose of the Sinopharm vaccine would be made available to all members of the public who received the second dose of the vaccine more than six months ago.
The Sinopharm vaccine was authorised for general public use on December 9, meaning many will be eligible for the extra dose from the end of next month.
Priority will be given to the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.
“As part of the state’s proactive strategy to provide maximum protection for society, the door has been opened for the public to receive an additional supportive dose of Sinopharm vaccine for people who have received the vaccine previously and who have completed more than six months on the second dose,” she said.
Walid Zaher, chief research officer of G42 Healthcare, said in March third doses had been administered to those whose immune systems were found to have not responded to the vaccine.
Dr Zaher said some people did not create enough antibodies to protect themselves against Covid-19 – a phenomenon that “is expected with all vaccines”.
He emphasised that very few people required a booster.
Dr Al Hosani said it was important for adolescents to receive the vaccine to support the fight against the virus.
The UAE approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children aged between 12 and 15 on an emergency basis last week.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention said on Thursday the approval was given after the country carried out successful clinical trials and assessments.
“This was considered a very significant step in fighting Covid-19 and protect those age categories,” she said.
“Expanding vaccine coverage allows us to provide vaccines to the biggest proportion of the population in order to reach herd immunity. It is important as children go back to schools.
“To parents, rest assured this vaccine will help us all feel safe and protect the health of children.
“It will reduce burden on parents who have children learning online.”
Dr Al Hosani said 73.88 of all eligible groups aged 16 and over had been inoculated, with this number rising above 80 per cent for the over-sixties.
“Through analysing data, we have seen vaccines have led to a decline in hospitalisation and less days of treatment and less use of ventilators.
“It has expedited the recovery pace and limited the spread of the virus.”
The UAE recorded 1,270 Covid-19 infections on Tuesday.
The latest caseload represented a slight increase on the year-low 1,229 cases reported on Monday, but continued an encouraging decline in infection rates.
The UAE has reported 548,681 infections since the outbreak began.
A further 1,250 patients recovered, bringing the overall tally to 528,769.
The death toll stands at 1,637 after four more fatalities.
Daily case numbers have remained below 2,000 since April 27, offering a boost to authorities as restrictions are gradually eased.
On Monday, Dubai announced it would permit live entertainment and activities in restaurants, cafes and shopping malls for a trial period of one month, which may be extended.
Entertainment venues can increase capacity to 70 per cent, hotels can raise occupancy to 100 per cent, restaurants can resume brunches and allow up to 10 diners to sit at a table, up from seven.
Music concerts, community sports events, spectator events and social and institutional events will also be allowed on the condition that all audience members, participants and staff have been vaccinated.
This week, Abu Dhabi announced it would allow quarantine-free travel from July 1.
A nationwide inoculation drive is key to the UAE’s efforts to slowly lift restrictions in a safe manner and return to normality.
Almost 11.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to the public since December.