The United Arab Emirates is on track to be among the first nations to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic by vaccinating most of its population in an attempt to return to normalcy, according to the latest data and health experts.
“With the dedicated effort of the UAE government to combat the pandemic – for which we are truly thankful for, and the willingness of the general public to support the programs led by the government, UAE may soon be the first country to vaccinate its entire population and hence, reach herd immunity,” Dr Fouad al-Rahal, a specialist in emergency medicine at Bareen International Hospital, told Al Arabiya English.
The Gulf country is currently one of the top countries leading the worldwide inoculation charge, according to Our World in Data, a collaboration between researchers at the University of Oxford and the nonprofit Global Change Data Lab.
The latest Our World in Data shows that the UAE has administered at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to more than 60 per cent of the population.
The UAE’s National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority also show that more than six million vaccine doses have been administered across the seven emirates, with a rate of 60.82 doses per 100 people.
On Twitter the NCEMA announced on Tuesday: “The UAE was able to provide more than six million doses to date and to provide the vaccine to 3,614,070 people.”
That represents a significantly higher proportion than any other nation, according to Our World in Data.
Doctors across the country have hailed the UAE as a champion in its vaccination rollout, with many backing the country to be the first to emerge from the coronavirus.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen that the UAE government has been taking all the health precautions and has been following international guidelines to prevent, curb the spread, and treat those infected with COVID-19,” al-Rahal said. “By educating the public and underlining the importance of following health and safety protocols, we have seen infection rates become more manageable over time.”
The UAE was also quick to seal deals with COVID-19 vaccine makers and distributors, the doctor added.
“When COVID-19 vaccines passed the clinical trials and was approved for use, UAE was one of the few countries which rolled out a national vaccination program, administering vaccines to citizens and residents of the UAE,” al-Rahal said.
He also said that “proper health education and due to the trust of the public to the leadership of the UAE,” there was a large turnout for participation in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination drive.
However, doctors think it is likely face masks worn in public will be around for the foreseeable future as a tool to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr Ravi Arora, of Abu Dhabi’s NMC Hospital, said wearing face masks for another year is likely, as the authorities track the new strains of virus.
“With new variants keep popping up which could minimize the impact of vaccines – it could be between six months to a year before not wearing masks becomes a possibility.”
Health experts have put the country’s success down to its highly organized health care system, swift lockdown measures, stringent public health safety protocols and enforces social distancing measures.
Dr Shaza Mohammed, a specialist in family medicine at Medcare medical center - Al Barsha, said a large population of the world must be immune to the virus in order to reach heard immunity for the viru “to be brought to an end.” She also said a vaccine “is the safest way to reach this goal.”
“Vaccines are what humanity has often relied on in the past to bring down the death toll of infectious diseases,” Mohammed said.
The UAE, according to Our World in Data website which publishes statistics on vaccinations worldwide, continues to be a global leader in rolling seven-day averages of doses offered per 100 people.”
Currently, there are four vaccines available in the UAE; Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sputnik V and Oxford-AstraZeneca.
“These vaccines are offered by the UAE to its citizens and residents free of charge and on optional basis after ensuring that the person has no condition or symptom that make it inadvisable,” Mohammed said
UAE’s economy, tourism industry to bounce quicker with vaccine programs
The UAE has one of the most ambitious vaccination programs in the world, which will help the country’s economy and tourism industry bounce quicker than most, according to Mansoor Ahmed, director for healthcare (MENA Region) at advisory firm Colliers.
“The UAE is expected to provide vaccination to more than 50 percent [of the] population by end of March 2021, which includes not only elderly population and population with under laying conditions, but people working in all the key industries such as healthcare, education, hospitality, retail and F&B, etc. – ultimately providing herd immunity to the UAE population,” Ahmed told Al Arabiya English.
He added, “this is expected to boost the economic rebound faster than most of the countries in the world as not only UAE residents (both local and expats) will feel safe to go out and work and spend but also revive regional and international tourism before EXPO 2020 - which will be another attractor to bring back international tourism.”
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Moreover, the UAE is already established itself as medical tourism hub, said Ahmed.
“Therefore, providing and introduction of health and wellness offering with hospitality and tourism is expected to not only revive travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, but is also expected to provide sustainability to the sector as both domestic and international tourists will stay from few weeks to months in hotels instead of few days.”
The UAE started its mass vaccination program in December 2020, aiming to inoculate 50 percent of its population by March 2021.
It will continue until December 2021 when the government aims to have vaccinated 70 percent of the country.
The UAE is second only to Israel, which has administered at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to almost 92 percent of the population, according to Our World in Data.
The United Kingdom is also one of the leaders in the worldwide vaccination charge, having given at least one jab to about 30 per cent of the population.