Vaccine demand in the UAE on the rise as appointments booked up in advance

Some clinics have no free slots until March, though government-run centres are still welcoming walk-ins

Some clinics that offer the Covid-19 vaccine said they have weeks-long waiting lists after a surge in demand.

Several private medical centres are fully booked until March.

Call centres are receiving hundreds of enquiries each day and most medical facilities are referring calls to an online link for registration.

Government-run vaccine centres still welcome walk-ins and are urging the public to get their shots without delay.

The Sinopharm vaccine is available across the country without charge at dozens of hospitals, vaccination centres, majlis and clinics.

When contacted by The National, several private health centres said their vaccine appointment slots were booked until January 20. Others said they would not have a free slot until March.

Dr Ramzi Alshaiba, medical director at Bareen International Hospital in Mohamed bin Zayed City, said demand for the vaccine shot up from last month.

“When we started the vaccination programme on December 13 at Bareen, we were only seeing 100 to 200 patients per day, on average," he said.

"However, in the past two days, we have been able to administer more than 1,200 Covid-19 vaccines in a day."

The hospital set up a temporary tent outside "to accommodate all patients who are lining up for Covid-19 vaccine program,” Dr Alshaiba said.

“Bareen tent houses the full procedure: from vital checks, to registration, to doctor consultation then, finally, vaccine administration. We are extremely grateful for the general public’s support in achieving herd immunity against the virus,” he said.

“All these would not be possible without the full support of the UAE government and the Department of Health Abu Dhabi."

The tent is segregated and Dr Alshaiba said more men than women had been vaccinated so far – an observation that fits with the country's gender ratio.

"We have also seen more middle-aged patients come to us than older age groups,” he said.

The Covid-19 vaccination drive is the country's largest to date. The health authorities aim to inoculate half the population by the end of the first quarter.

More than a million doses have been administered since the campaign began on December 13, four days after the UAE officially registered China’s Sinopharm vaccine for nationwide use. Phase-3 clinical trials had already been carried out and established 86 per cent efficacy against the coronavirus.

Two weeks later, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in Dubai.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two does to be taken 21 days apart while the Sinopharm vaccine is administered 28 days apart.