UAE expands vaccine drive to include residents aged 16 and over

So far, the country had prioritised those most at risk of infection, including the elderly and people with chronic diseases. PHOTO: AFP

DUBAI (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - The United Arab Emirates urged all citizens and residents aged 16 and above to register for Covid-19 vaccinations from Sunday (March 21) as the Gulf state widens its immunisation drive after inoculating about 56 per cent of the eligible population.

"Those eligible for vaccination, including citizens and residents aged 16 and above, can now get inoculated for free in any of the 205 vaccination locations," state-run WAM reported late on Saturday (March 20), citing the Ministry of Health.

The UAE, the region's commercial and tourism hub and a global travel centre, has set a blistering pace for its vaccine roll-out to keep its economy open for business. It ranks second globally behind Israel for doses per 100 people.

The health ministry said in a statement on state media late on Saturday that the move comes after nearly 73 per cent of elderly Emiratis, residents and those with chronic diseases have been vaccinated.

The country is providing four types of vaccine free of charge.

The UAE's daily Covid-19 cases surged to nearly 4,000 in late January from about 600 in September after Dubai swung open its doors to visitors during its peak winter tourism season.

The rate has fallen after authorities tightened restrictions at public venues but stopped short of imposing new lockdowns. Some restrictions have since been eased but mask-wearing in public and social distancing are still required.

The UAE, which does not give a breakdown for each of its seven emirates, registered 2,013 new infections on Saturday to take its total tally to 438,638 with 1,433 deaths.

It has approved shots from Sinopharm, Pfizer Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Russia's Sputnik V for emergency use.

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