UAE Weighs Curbs on Unvaccinated People, Sparking Criticism
The United Arab Emirates is considering restrictions on people who haven’t yet taken a vaccine despite being eligible for one, sparking criticism online and drawing in a member of Dubai’s ruling family.
“Strict measures are being considered to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals and to implement preventive measures such as restricting entry to some places and having access to some services,” Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, said late Tuesday.
The move triggered debates over the policy and whether people should have a choice in vaccinations in a country where medical tests for certain infectious diseases are a prerequisite for a visa. “Imposing it means robbing people of their rights,” said Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, who is a daughter of Dubai’s ruler and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The UAE started vaccinating residents last year and has since overseen one of the world’s fastest inoculation programs, having administered about 9.8 million doses in a mostly expatriate population of 10 million. The program was expanded last month and most people 16 and above are now eligible for free shots.
Israel -- the other leader in vaccine rollouts -- waded into controversial territory earlier this year by authorizing its health ministry to relay names and contact information of uninoculated people to other authorities. The government said the measure was meant to encourage immunization, while critics said it would impinge on privacy.
Most people in the UAE have received the vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm Group, which is now being manufactured locally. There have been concerns over the efficacy of China’s Covid-19 vaccines, though a study conducted by Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre found a “significant” decrease in the rate of infection after the second dose.
“We call on the public, both citizens and residents above the age of 16 who did not get vaccinated, to visit the nearest vaccination center and get the vaccine,” the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority said in a tweet. “Delaying or refraining from taking the vaccine poses a threat to the safety of society.”
Shots developed by AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc. have also been used, mostly in the emirate of Dubai, though Abu Dhabi is also now making the Pfizer vaccine available to its residents.
The UAE has reported just over half a million cases since the start of the outbreak. Cases spiked to about 4,000 a day in January, but have since dropped. About 1,560 people have died, giving the country one of the lowest case-mortality rates in the world.
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