Dr Farida Al Hosani: everyone should be vaccinated before travelling abroad this summer

Top health official urges people to protect themselves and receive both doses before flying

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UAE residents travelling abroad should get vaccinated first, a top government official urged.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, official spokeswoman for the health sector, said members of the public should receive both vaccine doses before leaving the country.

She urged all UAE citizens and residents to be immunised "for their own safety" to aid the country's fight against Covid-19.

In an interview with The National, she cautioned people against mixing their inoculations and said more vaccines would be available in Abu Dhabi.

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Travellers need to take a full 'Covid review' of their destination country

Dr Al Hosani said anyone planning to travel abroad should "consider the risks" and "carefully select their destination".

"They must take the vaccine," she told The National.

“But it is not just travellers, everyone must get the vaccine, regardless of whether they are travelling or not. It is for their own safety.”

Even when vaccinated, people should carefully select their holiday destinations to avoid putting themselves and family members at risk.

"Most importantly ... study the country you are going to. Make sure they [holiday destination] don't have high Covid infection rates," said Dr Al Hosani, who is also department manager for communicable diseases at Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre.
"Also, it might be difficult being there because [travellers] may face lockdowns and not be able to return.

"So, travellers need to take a full 'Covid review' of their destination country.

"Also, avoid countries that have low health infrastructures, [where people] don’t wear masks and [countries that] have low testing rates.

"If they go to countries that don’t have social distancing and have low vaccination rates, then it means that it is risky for them to choose this destination.”

Yet despite Covid-19 concerns, many people are more confident about travelling in 2021, a survey said.

The Global Rescue’s Traveller Sentiment and Safety Survey found 78 per cent of respondents are much less or less concerned about travel safety this year compared with 2020.

'Don't mix vaccine doses'

But caution is recommended and mixing vaccines is discouraged.

Dr Al Hosani advised people against taking a first dose from one vaccine maker before switching to another.

She said there is insufficient data to suggest taking a mixture of vaccines will be effective.

“[People] should stick to one vaccine. Currently, there is not enough data regarding the safety of interchanging vaccines.”

Dr Al Hosani said similar recommendations are followed worldwide.

“Most regulatory countries are warning about mixing vaccines.”

More vaccines to be rolled out in Abu Dhabi

Dr Farida Al Hosani, official spokeswoman of the UAE health sector, said it is vital people are fully vaccinated before travelling outside of the country. National Media Council

Dr Al Hosani said Abu Dhabi will offer more vaccines to the public soon, in addition to those already in use.

China's Sinopharm vaccine was approved in December, followed by Pfizer-BioNTech last week.

“We will continue to have more than one option in the upcoming period," she said.

"We believe that there is no best one and that it is important to provide options to the community to enhance the uptake.

"The list of approved vaccines is increasing globally and the UAE always tries to bring the best for its people, so there will be a review of the latest updates and [we'll] make sure we upgrade our programmes.”

Sinopharm is 'very effective'

Dr Al Hosani said she had great confidence in the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine.

The vaccine was found to be 93 per cent effective in preventing hospital admissions and 95 per cent effective against admission to intensive care, according to research by the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre.

Its overall efficacy is 79 per cent, Sinopharm said.

“We believe Sinopharm is very effective based on studies done by the Abu Dhabi Public Health department," Dr Al Hosani said.

"We have seen its impact and a huge reduction in the number of hospital admissions in vaccinated individuals and, unfortunately, what we are seeing is that most of the people in ICUs have not been vaccinated.”

The UAE operates one of the world's leading vaccination programmes and administered more than 10 million doses since a nationwide inoculation drive was launched in December.

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