COVID-19 cases continue to decline in UAE as vaccination progresses

UAE's vaccination campaign is one of the fastest in the world
COVID-19 Vaccination Room in the Dubai Financial Centre

AFP/KARIM SAHIB  -   COVID-19 Vaccination Room in the Dubai Financial Centre

COVID-19 infections in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have fallen by 22% since the peak in late January. The Gulf country has one of the fastest coronavirus vaccination campaigns in the world, having administered 60.82 doses per 100 people. In total, more than six million doses have been administered.

Approximately half of the population is already vaccinated and this has been influenced by the authorities' efforts to convince citizens of the need to be vaccinated to reduce the number of infections. In addition to containment measures, the spread of the virus has been significantly reduced. 

Sreekumar Sreedharan, an internal medicine specialist at the Aster Clinic in Abu Dhabi, explained to the Gulf Mail how vaccines help "our bodies" develop immunity. "Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection. The body is left with a supply of 'memory' T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes, which will remember how to fight that virus in the future."

Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, director general adjunto de la Autoridad Sanitaria de Dubai (DHA)
AFP/KARIM SAHIB - Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, Deputy Director General of Dubai Health Authority (DHA)

"Stopping a pandemic requires the use of all available tools. Vaccines work with your immune system so that your body is ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, such as masks and social distancing, help reduce the chance of being exposed or spreading the virus to others," he reflected. 

One of the vaccines they are using is the one developed by AstraZeneca, which has two doses and they are currently leaving a ten-week interval between the first and second dose. According to the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) "recent Oxford University studies on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed greater efficacy and acquired immunity when the interval between the first and second doses was increased", which is why they would have determined that number of days.

To facilitate and control that all citizens receive the second dose, which is essential otherwise they would not acquire immunity, the DHA sends text messages with the date and place of the vaccination appointment. 

In the case of Dubai, one of the country's largest emirates, the coronavirus containment measures introduced in early February will be extended until the start of Ramadan in mid-April. This decision was taken on the basis of an assessment of the evolution of the virus. However, these measures are not very restrictive; in fact, it is one of the areas of the country that has been quickest to reopen its economic activity, which had a negative impact on an increase in infections, earning it criticism within the country by jeopardising the overall decline in cases. 

Un hombre recibe una vacuna COVID-19 de Sinopharm de manos de un personal médico en el templo sij Guru Nanak Darbar, en Dubái, Emiratos Árabes Unidos, el lunes 8 de febrero de 2021
AP/KAMRAN JEBREIL - A man receives a Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine from a medical staff at the Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh temple in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021.

In contrast, the emirate's economy has benefited as reflected in a number of indicators, including an increase in output for the second consecutive month in January. It has also improved its employment data. In the country as a whole, according to the International Monetary Fund, the economy will grow by 1.3% this year according to the agency's estimate, after contracting by 6.6% in 2020. 

Another effect of the rapid vaccination campaign is a kind of pull effect on wealthy tourists from other countries. This is the case of two Spanish women who arrived in the UAE last week to get vaccinated there and who gave their testimonies to the ABC newspaper. 

Un trabajador sanitario desecha viales usados de la vacuna Oxford contra el coronavirus en un centro de vacunación instalado en el Centro Financiero Internacional de Dubái, en el emirato del Golfo, el 3 de febrero de 2021
AFP/KARIM SAHIB - A health worker discards used vials of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination centre set up at the Dubai International Financial Centre in Dubai, the Gulf emirate, on February 3, 2021.
UAE continues to help end the pandemic outside its borders

Last weekend, a donation of 20,000 vaccines arrived in the Gaza Strip from the United Arab Emirates, which together with the 2,000 received from the West Bank, will allow the vaccination campaign to begin this Monday among health workers and patients with chronic diseases. 

The Sputnik V batches arrived through the Rafah border crossing on the Egyptian border and were delivered through a rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who resides in Abu Dhabi. 

Centro de vacunación instalado en el Centro Financiero Internacional de Dubái
AFP/KARIM SAHIB - Vaccination centre set up in Dubai International Financial Centre

The delivery of the vaccines took place in a complex context for Palestine in the midst of the first legislative elections in 15 years scheduled for next May.