Covid-19 vaccination is a hot topic, and while some may be apprehensive, the UAE ministry of education has made its stance very clear. In a bid to make schools as safe as possible, the authorities have announced that students aged 16 and over must be vaccinated if they wish to attend school physically. The vaccination status must be verified on the Al Hosn app. If your child turns 16 during the academic year, they are required to take the first dose of the vaccine within four weeks of turning 16 and they must complete their second dose on time. Some exemptions do apply. If your child cannot take the Covid vaccine due to medical reasons, exemptions should be verified on the Al Hosn app through an official letter from SEHA or other health department-authorized providers.
Where can I get my child vaccinated?
There are over 100 locations around the UAE that offer the Covid-19 vaccine for children. You can visit the department of health website for a complete list. Pfizer-BioNTech is available to children aged 12 and up and Sinopharm is available to children ages three to 17. In Abu Dhabi, the education department, department of health, Abu Dhabi public health center and Mubadala Health have organized a pop-up vaccination center at Yas Mall from August 24-26 from 12 pm to 8 pm daily.
There’s no need to make an appointment as walk-ins are welcome. Students below the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Getting to the pop-up is simple. Use the Grand Prix parking lot on the top level of the mall, near the Kidzania entrance, and take the escalator one floor down. All Abu Dhabi students aged 12 and up are eligible for the vaccine, including university students. A valid Emirates ID and Al Hosn app must be presented for verification.
What happens if I don’t vaccinate my child?
If you choose not to vaccinate your child aged 16 and over, they can only attend school through distance learning. They will be allowed to enter the school on the day of their public exams with proof of a valid negative PCR test.
The child immunization program
The Covid-19 vaccine requirement has had a mixed reaction. But school districts across the globe have had vaccine requirements long before Covid came along. As for the UAE, it has long mandated vaccinations for children from birth to age 11. Authorities also run a Childhood and School Immunization program where vaccinations are administered in schools. Students are vaccinated by the school nurse according to their age group and gender. Each child has a vaccination record that includes vital statistics such as height, weight and body mass index along with the date and time of each dose.
Rest assured that although this happens as a regular occurrence during a school day, parents are included in the process as they can opt in by returning a consent letter to the school. Healthcare workers complete a full health assessment for each child to ensure there are no contraindications or duplicate doses. Through the school program, which is free, children are vaccinated against diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and even human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that can cause cervical cancer. Parents can opt out and choose to vaccinate through private clinics. Check out this chart showing the child vaccination schedule.
Is it working?
The rate of infectious disease cases in the UAE has dropped significantly since the launch of the National Immunization Program in 1980. In 1993, the UAE was declared as polio-free country. There has also been a dramatic reduction in the number of measles, mumps, rubella and pertussis cases. According to statistics from 2012, there was a significant reduction in many vaccine-preventable diseases. For instance, after the introduction of varicella vaccine in late 2010, chickenpox cases decreased by 20 percent compared to the cases in 2011. In addition, rubella was reduced to 18 cases in 2012, down from 42 cases in 2011. According to HAAD’s 2015 Communicable Diseases Bulletin, many communicable diseases saw a drop. That includes rotavirus, with a 50 percent reduction in cases from the first quarter to the fourth quarter of 2015.
In collaboration with the Abu Dhabi education department and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, the Abu Dhabi healthy authority carried out several vaccination campaigns as part of the School Vaccination Program during the 2014-2015 school year for students from grades one to 11. The program confirmed that 95 percent of students had been administered the MMR and varicella vaccine, 94 percent had benefited from the polio vaccine, while 91 percent of female students had been vaccinated against HPV. According to the World Health Organization, vaccines save around 2 to 3 million lives annually.