Friday 18 June 2021 - 9:24:56 pm

Local Press: Can the UAE achieve herd immunity this year?

ABU DHABI, 14th January, 2021 (WAM) -- Earlier this week, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, encouraged all citizens and residents of the UAE to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to "help us end this pandemic," noted a UAE daily.

In an editorial on Thursday, The National said, "By personally encouraging people to do so, the country's leadership is making clear the direct line between inoculation and speeding up the nation's post-pandemic recovery. It also highlights that UAE public officials believe that an end to COVID-19's grip on our lives – at least in the Emirates – is in sight.

"Herd immunity is the ultimate goal. As of Tuesday, 1,275,500 jabs have been administered in the UAE, putting the country second globally in the number of vaccines administered per 100 people. Any adult residing in the country is able to get the vaccine for free."

The paper quoted His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who said, "We hope that with vaccinations picking up pace, we will reach the point of full recovery in the shortest possible time." That is the hope we all share and must strive for, the paper said.

"On Monday, the World Health Organisation warned that worldwide herd immunity will not be achieved by the end of 2021. Surging infection rates across Europe form part of this estimation. Other reasons referenced by the UN agency's chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, include limited access to jabs in developing countries, false scepticism some hold over vaccine safety, and the threat posed by the virus mutating into more contagious forms, possibly ones that render vaccines less effective," it added.

The editorial continued, "The statement stressed that any inoculation programme takes time. Nonetheless, many governments who knew even in the early days of the pandemic that vaccines would come failed to prepare logistically for a swift rollout. There has also been a global inability to develop strategies to keep up pace with misinformation and conspiracy theories about the safety of jabs.

"The speed of vaccine development during this pandemic has been unprecedented. But this win does not guard against inevitable setbacks. Yesterday, researchers in Brazil published a study showing that the CoronoVac jab, a mainstay of the country's inoculation programme, is only 50 percent effective.

"Even in nations ahead on vaccination, cases are rising. Israel, which leads the field in inoculating its citizens, is experiencing a spike in infections that it blames on the arrival of the more infectious UK variant of COVID-19 in the country. On Tuesday, the UAE recorded 3,243 new cases of the virus, the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that the nation exceeded 3,000 daily cases. While this number is significantly lower than in other developed countries, it highlights the fact that the acceleration of vaccination campaigns does not yet mean the fight against COVID-19 is over."

The Abu Dhabi-based daily concluded by saying that, "Stressing this simple point consistently should remain central in public messaging the world over. Even in nations where herd immunity in 2021 remains possible, people must not lose discipline and jeopardise recent progress. Hand-washing, maintaining social distancing and wearing facemasks in public remain as important as they were at the beginning of the pandemic."

WAM/Rola Alghoul/Rasha Abubaker