A senior Red Cross official in the GCC has urged people to get the Covid-19 shot, saying unvaccinated people could put the public health at risk.
Dr Fawzi Amin, the first GCC representative to lead the delegation of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the benefits of getting inoculated against the coronavirus far outweigh any possible side effects of the vaccine.
Dr Amin, who spoke at an online webinar to discuss the latest virus figures across the six-nation bloc, stressed the importance of getting injections as new cases increase across the region.
Most Covid-19 vaccines, including the Sinopharm and Pfizer-BioNTech, have been evaluated and analysed for safety and effectiveness in clinical trials.
He quoted figures from across the GCC in his 30-minute presentation to show how the response to the virus had changed since the first case was diagnosed in the UAE on January 29.
More cases were being detected because of effective and widespread testing, he said.
"My advice is… do not wait… take the vaccine," said Dr Amin, who was an adviser to the World Health Organisation for nearly two decades.
“Each day in the GCC, we have 40 people dying," he said. "This is a serious disease. Even if you are not dying from the disease you may have a long term health problem.
“The risk surpasses any side effect of the vaccine. We should not hesitate, we should be promoting everyone to take the vaccine as quickly as possible to protect yourself [and others].”
Dr Amin said older adults are at higher risk for severe illness but that does not mean younger people will not experience severe symptoms.
He gave the example of Japan, which has an ageing population but has a low death rate.
The median age in Japan is 48 but it has recorded only 3,962 deaths among its nearly 126.3 million population.
Wearing face masks, implementing social-distancing measures, early and effective contact-tracing strategies also contributed to relatively low numbers (in Japan), he said.
Dr Amin, from Bahrain, praised the UAE’s efforts to control the virus, but asked people to receive the vaccine to avoid problems in the future.
“If you are not vaccinated, you are a public threat and you can affect your family and a vulnerable person,” he said.
“It is an important issue. The front line workers should be the first, but it is everyone’s duty. We can all carry the virus.”
Almost 1.3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the UAE since a free and voluntary inoculation campaign began last month with tens of thousands of shots given each day.
Nearly 250,000 people in the country have completed their Covid-19 vaccination, having received two doses 28 days apart.
The UAE has authorised the use of the Sinopharm vaccine, which, when tested locally, was found to be 86 per cent effective. Wider tests conducted by the Chinese pharmaceutical company put the efficacy rate at 79 per cent.
In Dubai, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is made available for over-60s, frontline workers and people with underlying health conditions that place them at greater risk of serious illness.
Inoculations for the rest of the population in the emirate are expected to begin in the coming months.