Abu Dhabi: Nearly 35,000 military personnel, contractors and their families have been vaccinated against COVID-19, a senior official at the UAE Armed Forces has said.
The vaccinations were given to reassure members of the UAE Armed Forces working on the frontlines, and enable them to carry out their duties in these challenging times, said Brigadier Aysha Al Dhaheri, commander of the UAE Armed Forces Medical Services Corps.
Al Dhaheri was speaking at a leadership conference organised by the UAE Ministry of Defence, where she advocated for armed forces to play a larger role in managing and mitigating non-military threats like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Al Dhaheri said a number of people had been infected with COVID-19 in the initial phases of the pandemic, so the vaccinations had provided them with ‘an opportunity’ to stay safe.
“When the [COVID-19 vaccination trials] started, we encouraged large numbers of our staff to take part, [and many did]. [Eventually], when the [emergency approval] was granted for the vaccine, we vaccinated a lot of our staff, starting with the medical personnel, because we wanted to ensure that they are actually healthy and able to carry on their duties,” she explained.
According to the official, the UAE Armed Forces have played an integral role on the frontlines since the start of the pandemic. In addition to helping set up drive-through screening centres, the Armed Forces have also helped double the capacity of medical facilities.
“We supported the Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC), the largest hospital [in the country], by forming a UAE-US team that worked closely with the hospital to rapidly expand its capacity, nearly doubling the number of beds from 313 to 525 beds, including 135 intensive care unit beds. Military medical professionals [also] worked directly with the permanent medical staff at the SSMC to treat thousands of critically ill COVID-19 patients, including many patients on medical ventilation, even as they operated at double the hospital’s regular intensive care capacity,” Al Dhaheri said.
In addition, the Armed Forces helped transfer critically ill COVID-19 patients in Abu Dhabi to health facilities for treatment, delivered key supplies like PPE and diagnostic sets to health facilities, and even helped deliver medical supplies to Tehran when COVID-19 cases were on the rise.
“I am proud of how the UAE and its Armed Forces and the UAE medical services corps have responded to the pandemic so far, but there is still much work to be done and there is always room for improvement. Leveraging defense capabilities to prevent and mitigate non-military threats such as this pandemic enables the world to get ahead of the crisis and improve regional readiness and stability,” she added.