DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates are on the way to vaccinate half of its population against the coronavirus before a deadline it set itself in late March, according to the country’s health authorities.

The little desert sheikh of 10 million began delivering its vaccination campaign to the public late last year after making China’s Sinopharm vaccine available to frontline health workers and government officials in September. In terms of vaccination rates, the UAE’s national program is the second highest in the world after Israel.

More than 1.8 million people have already received the Sinopharm vaccine, which is available to all citizens and residents free of charge. That is more than four times the vaccination rate per capita in the US. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine developed in the USA and Germany is launched in Dubai. He is currently in the first phase, which is reserved for people over the age of 60, existing health conditions and frontline workers.

A health worker shows a dose of the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm Covid-19 in a vaccination center in the Jordanian capital Amman on January 13, 2021.

Khalil Mazraawi | AFP | Getty Images

Both vaccines require two shocks 28 days apart, and 28 days after receiving the second shot, patients are no longer required to be quarantined but are required to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing, as the country’s national emergency crisis and disaster management agency does did said

And while taking the vaccine is optional, it is highly recommended, according to NCEMA. Government employees in Abu Dhabi who choose not to take any of the vaccines are required to do a PCR test every two weeks.

“We are very pleased with the progress we have made,” UAE deputy minister for culture and public diplomacy Omar Ghobash told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Sunday. “Of course there are people who still get sick and sadly die, but overall we think we’ve managed to strike a balance between health and safety on the one hand and economic viability on the other.”

Sinopharm developers say the vaccine is 86% effective while the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective, although some health professionals have expressed skepticism about the Chinese-made vaccine as there is no published data on its development and its Studies are available. In November, UAE leaders including the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum tweeted pictures of themselves receiving the Sinopharm shot.

The vaccinations progress below the peaks in some cases

Since late December, cases in Gulf Land have risen in less than three weeks as tourists flocked to Dubai’s fully open beaches, restaurants and shopping malls. Although visitors may require a negative PCR test result before boarding or upon arrival, many suspect that a transmissible strain of virus, first identified in the UK, is at least partly to blame for the large number of British tourists staying in the emirate on vacation.

The spike in cases – now averaging more than 3,000 a day compared to around 1,000 a day in late December – led the UK to remove the UAE from its “safe travel corridor” despite UK travelers being excluded from many countries for fear of the new strain of the virus . The UAE had successfully kept their case numbers below 2,000 per day for all of 2020.

The UAE has recorded 256,732 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 751 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. A record number of 3,453 cases was recorded on Sunday.

Women sunbathers sit on a beach in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on July 24, 2020, while the Burj al-Arab Hotel can be seen behind it. After a painful four-month hiatus in tourism that ended in early July, Dubai is paying off as a safe travel destination with the resources to ward off coronaviruses.

KARIM SAHIB | AFP via Getty Images

Still, it seems that the party city and regional trade capital Dubai will continue their vaccination campaign, at least for the time being, while keeping their tourism-dependent economy open.

The neighboring oil-rich capital Abu Dhabi was now much more conservative and required a series of negative PCR test results over a period of several days for anyone wishing to enter the emirate – including from other emirates in the country.

In Dubai, the wearing of masks is still required in all public places, with the exception of activities such as eating or doing strenuous exercise. The authorities remind residents of social distance. The emirate’s openness, which has gradually increased since the summer, was due to one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in March and April.

Until the New Year, the Dubai government allowed residents to hold gatherings of up to 30 people in their homes. Hotels that were once almost empty now have an occupancy rate of over 70% as tourists flee their own countries for reasons of normalcy and warm weather.

“You balance personal responsibility with an economy that needs to move forward,” Ghobash said of the country.

“Vaccinate the largest percentage of society possible” is the country’s goal, NCEMA tweeted earlier this month, to “gain access to vaccine-acquired immunity that will help reduce the number of cases and control the disease” .