Stock UAE vaccine SEHA
A Seha vaccination centre. Measures like mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing ensure that those who get vaccinated do not contract mild or asymptomatic COVID-19. Image Credit: Courtesy SEHA

Abu Dhabi: UAE residents who have received the COVID-19 vaccine must still continue to abide by COVID-19 precautions in order to protect themselves as well as other vulnerable community members, top health officials have urged.

Measures like mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing ensure that those who get vaccinated do not contract mild or asymptomatic COVID-19. They also ensure that vaccinated people do not contract the virus and pass it on to others who have not yet received the vaccine.

Dr Anwar Sallam

“Following precautionary measures … is as important today as it was at the very start of this pandemic. There is still a risk that vaccinated members of the community contract the virus without presenting symptoms and pass it on to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses, within their circle of family or friends,” warned Dr Anwar Sallam, group chief medical officer at public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha).

Dr Farida Al Hosani

Dr Farida Al Hosani, official spokesperson for the UAE government health authorities and manager of communicable diseases at the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, also explained that like all other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines do not completely eradicate the risk of infection. “The COVID-19 vaccines do not completely eliminate the risk of infection. But they greatly reduce the risk of infection and transmission. They also reduce severe complications resulting from the virus. Therefore, a small percentage of people may still get infected without experiencing any symptoms or with the presence of mild symptoms. [This is why] we must adhere to the precautionary measures, such as wearing face masks and maintaining physical distancing even after taking the vaccine,” she has urged.

The renewed calls for following preventive measures came as the UAE marches toward its target of vaccinating 50 per cent of the population against COVID-19 within the first three months of the year. Since February 7, health authorities across the UAE have been offering COVID-19 vaccines only to vulnerable groups of residents — senior residents, those with chronic diseases and People of Determination — in a bid to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

“The health and well-being of the community is core to our approach at Seha, and we are very much aligned with our wise leadership’s measures and guidance for safety precautions, that have proven to keep the UAE’s COVID-19 infection and death rate much lower than global rates,” Dr Sallam said on Sunday.

Precautionary measures after the COVID-19 vaccine
* Wear a mask.
* Sanitise regularly, including handwashing.
* Maintain social distancing.
* Follow any other preventive measures mandated

A statement sent by Seha referenced the World Health Organisation Situation Report on COVID-19, which records the UAE’s COVID-19 mortality rate as 0.3 per cent, significantly lower than the global average of three per cent. Over 29 million COVID-19 tests have been performed in the UAE.

“These accomplishments are testament to how successful the UAE’s response to the pandemic has been and the role of the community in uniting against the spread of the virus,” the Seha statement said.

Seha has played a key role in curbing the spread of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, including setting up over 20 drive-through screening facilities, and building three field hospitals in record time. The health provider is also managing dozens of vaccination facilities in the country, including three of the largest centres at the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, the Al Ain Convention Centre and the Dubai Parks and Resorts.

“Without the community’s role in all our efforts, we could not have achieved these remarkable results. To continue progressing, we call on the community to follow all precautionary measures, so we do not delay our ultimate goal — defeating the pandemic,” Dr Sallam added.