Abu Dhabi: The UAE has achieved yet another milestone in the fight against COVID-19, with all individuals eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in the UAE covered, the National COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign by the National Crisis, Emergencies and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) announced on Thursday.
The NCEMA attributed the success of the massive effort to the people of the UAE, as well as to its public and private health facilities.
The journey began as early as July 2020, within five months of the country recording its first case of COVID-19.
On July 16, 2020, Sheikh Abdullah Al Hamed, chairman of Abu Dhabi health regulator, Department of Health (DoH), and Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, DoH undersecretary, became the first two individuals in the UAE to receive doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as part of a trials drive. The vaccine, produced by a subsidiary of Chinese pharmaceutical giant, China National Pharmaceutical Group, became dubbed Sinopharm after the name of its producer. The UAE trials were Phase III trials of an inactivated vaccine, and were led by the Artifical Intelligence and Cloud Computing firm, G42, in collaboration with public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha).
Within weeks, more than 31,000 people had enrolled as volunteers for the trials, and when two doses of the vaccine were shown to be effective in preventing death and severe complications in more than 80 per cent of volunteers, it was granted Emergency Use Authorisation by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP). At this stage, frontline workers began receiving vaccine doses to protect them as they served the community. Further testing continued and on December 9, the UAE officially registered the inactivated vaccine for distribution.
Immediately, public and private healthcare centres across the country sprung into action, setting up large vaccination centres in record time in order to immunise the population against COVID-19. In particular, Seha and the Dubai Healthcare Authority set up colossal facilities in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai, with centres at the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal and the Dubai World Trade Centre administering vaccines to more than 3,000 people every single day by January 2021.
As the Sinopharm vaccines were being administered, the UAE also embarked on Phase III trials for the Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology. This was an adenoviral-based vaccine that had already been approved for use in Russia, but 1,000 residents in the UAE signed up to volunteer for Phase III trials that ensured the safety of the vaccine. This vaccine was also granted Emergency Use Authorisation in January 2021, and made available to residents.
In December 2020, the MoHAP provided emergency approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine, a novel kind of vaccine that produced an immune response with the action of messenger RNA. The DHA began offering doses to residents.
Free vaccination and treatment
The UAE’s leadership took a generous decision, at the outset, to offer all COVID-19 vaccines, as well as follow-up treatment for any side effects, free of charge. Accordingly, health facilities maintained a follow-up schedule to ensure that residents did not develop any serious side effects from the vaccines.
In these initial stages, COVID-19 vaccines were available for residents aged at least 16 years old, and it was still necessary to don facemasks in public spaces, both indoors and outdoors. There were however comprehensive plans to immunise children, and by May 2021, when its safety was confirmed by the United States-based Food and Drug Administration, MoHAP approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years. Looking ahead to a safe school term, authorities encouraged children to get vaccinated during the summer, limiting in-person school attendance from September 2021 onwards to children 16 years and older who had received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Another vaccine trial with 900 young participants was also ongoing in Abu Dhabi to test the safety of the Sinopharm vaccine, and this was later approved for children aged three years or more. In addition, the eligibility of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was increased in November 2021 to include children as young as five years old.
All along, the UAE’s goal remained to ensure that all eligible individuals were vaccinated against COVID-19, with a focus on the most vulnerable members of society. These included frontline workers, senior residents aged 60 years or more, people of determination, people suffering from chronic conditions, and staff at schools, universities and health facilities.
The country also approved the COVID-19 vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Moderna, even though these were only offered in limited quantities by DHA.
As soon as six months had lapsed since the first COVID-19 doses were administered, the UAE – in keeping with international recommendations – also launched a drive to offer booster doses. Once again, these were offered free of charge, and in an organised fashion based on vaccination type across the widest range of healthcare facilities and clinics.
The UAE’s comprehensive vaccination effort was also aided by a well-established support network across the country. Most notably, the development of a vaccine registry, the Al Hosn App, helped maintain a comprehensive record of every vaccine dose received by each user, along with PCR testing records. The app also enabled residents and visitors to register vaccine doses they had received abroad, as the UAE opened up its borders to international travellers in summer 2021.
NCEMA also published a daily record of the number of doses that had been administered, which continued to inspire and strengthen immunisation efforts. Till date, 24.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the UAE, with a distribution rate of 251.98 doses per 100 people. This translates to every member of the population receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 98 per cent of people being fully vaccinated against the disease.
NCEMA also held weekly briefings to announce regulatory changes for COVID-19 precautionary measures and vaccination drives. This greatly helped drive down vaccine hesitancy in the community, and helped fight misinformation.
Yesterday, UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with a delegation from DoH, including Al Hamed, DoH chairman, and thanked them for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UAE has been ranked among the foremost nations internationally in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for its success in creating public trust and ensuring community safety. World leaders have consistently commended these efforts, which were led in an exemplary manner by the UAE leadership.
Today’s alert by NCEMA once again highlighted the national efforts, and the important role played by the community in ensuring that the UAE continues to lead in its public health standards.
UAE among countries with top vaccine distribution per 100 population
Developed at record speed, a series of COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be the most effective weapons against the infectious disease. While they do not always prevent infection, fully vaccinated and boosted individuals are far less likely to suffer from severe complications and fatalities.
Embarking on an early start, the UAE has consistently been one of the countries to lead global rankings when it comes to vaccine distribution and acceptance. As of June 1, more than 24.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in the UAE, with a distribution rate of 251.98 doses per 100 population. The NCEMA has reported that 98 per cent of the population is also fully vaccinated at present.
Chile: 286.58 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 54.7 million doses given
UAE: 251.98 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 24.9 million doses given
China: 233.97 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 3.44 billion doses given
Australia: 229.09 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of 58 million doses given
Vietnam: 224.78 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 218 million doses given
Canada: 219.26 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 82.7 million doses given
France: 219.2 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 147 million doses given
United Kingdom: 210.3 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 142 million doses given
Brazil: 201.55 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 428 million doses given
United States: 173.84 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 575 million doses given
India: 140.6 doses administered per 100 population, with a total of more than 1.94 billion doses given
Brunei, Singapore, Matla, Macao and Samoa also report high COVID-19 vaccine distribution rates, in addition to the above countries.