Dubai residents flock to Covid-19 vaccine centres as age rules are eased
At Dubai's One Central, some people who arrived before closing were given Pfizer-BioNTech shots
Vaccination centres recorded a surge in demand as the country pushes ahead to inoculate half of the population by late March.
Queues of people and cars were common at dedicated medical centres in recent days.
The authorities and many employers are urging people to get vaccinated, as the Emirates reported nine consecutive days of record-high daily cases.
At Dubai Parks and Resorts, vehicles snaked out of the theme park, across a motorway bridge and down on to Sheikh Zayed Road on Wednesday.
It seemed really organised, but without an appointment it took a long time
It is one of more than 150 centres across the country delivering either the Sinopharm vaccine – which is available to all nationwide – or Pfizer-BioNtech, which is available to at-risk groups in Dubai.
While there is no age restriction for those taking the Sinopharm vaccine, the Pfizer shot is limited to over-60s, frontline health workers and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Despite that, some younger residents were able to get the Pfizer injection at vaccine centres in Dubai.
Exceptions were made to avoid wasting existing supplies, those who took the shot said.
Once a vaccine vial, each of which holds five doses, is opened, it cannot be restored.
While those with a booked appointment via the Seha mobile app enjoyed a seamless experience, others faced long waits to receive the vaccine.
Sports journalist Ali Khaled waited hours at the temporary vaccination site near Ghantoot on Tuesday. He advised anyone hoping to get vaccinated to book an appointment.
“It was about 4pm, and thought I would try my luck,” said Khaled, 51, who has an Abu Dhabi visa.
“At the top of the bridge I was asked if I had an appointment, and they let me through the main gate even though I didn’t have one.
“It seemed really organised, but without an appointment it took a long time.
Abu Dhabi vaccine centre handles thousands a day
“I ended up waiting for about two and half hours, then gave up and left when one of the attendants there said I had at least another two-hour wait ahead of me.
“Quite a few other cars also left. I would advise anyone to make an appointment first.”
The centre is one of three operated by Seha, which is vaccinating up to 3,000 people a day.
There were queues at the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal and Al Ain Convention Centre for those turning up without appointments.
It was a different story for Indian citizen Rhea Matthew.
Some younger people secure Pfizer-BioNTech shots
Ms Matthew, 27, booked an appointment for January 12 via the Seha app to take the Sinopharm vaccine at Dubai Parks and Resorts.
“I went early morning, at about 7.45am, and got there about an hour and a half early to be sure I would get in,” she said.
“We were there for two hours from start to finish. Our car was one of the first in and the traffic soon built up behind us.
“Once inside the medical centre I only waited for five minutes before I was given the vaccine.
“Elderly people were being seen to first, and it started to get very busy as we were about to leave just before 10am.
‘The traffic was backed up on to the main highway, and the access ramp was completely full up with cars.”
Irene Feeney, 44, took the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at One Central at the World Trade Centre on Monday with her 45-year-old husband.
“Our friends went down the night before and said it was very straightforward and there were no queues, so we thought we would try,” she said.
“There were quite a few people hanging around and a lot of walk-ins.”
While the Ministry of Health and Prevention’s health centres accept walk-ins, appointments are needed for vaccination centres and drive-through centres operated by the Seha public hospital operator.
Mrs Feeney tried to register for the Pfizer vaccine via the Dubai Health Authority mobile app, but was advised she would have to wait until April because she did not fit the priority criteria.
She attended the Dubai World Trade Centre temporary clinic and was given the Pfizer vaccine.
“We had no appointment, we were just in the right place at the right time,” said Mrs Feeney, who works in a school.
“I’m assuming they had supplies they needed to use up.”
Updated: January 21, 2021 07:08 PM