Feasibility of a Saliva-Based COVID-19 Screening Program in Abu Dhabi Primary Schools

Ayaz Virji, Aisha Al Hamiz, Omniyat Al Hajeri, Budoor Al Shehhi, Shammah Abdulla Ali Al Memari, Ahlam Al Maskari, Noora Alhajri, Sally Mahmoud, Monika Piotrowska, Raghib Ali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The pandemic has forced closures of primary schools, resulting in loss of learning time on a global scale. In addition to face coverings, social distancing, and hand hygiene, an efficient testing method is important to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools. We evaluated the feasibility of a saliva-based SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction testing program among 18 primary schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Qualitative results show that children 4 to 5 years old had difficulty producing an adequate saliva specimen compared to those 6 to 12 years old. Methods: A short training video on saliva collection beforehand helps demystify the process for students and parents alike. Informed consent was challenging yet should be done beforehand by school health nurses or other medical professionals to reassure parents and maximize participation. Results: Telephone interviews with school administrators resulted in an 83% response rate. Overall, 93% of school administrators had a positive experience with saliva testing and felt the program improved the safety of their schools. The ongoing use of saliva testing for SARS-CoV-2 was supported by 73% of respondents. Conclusion: On-campus saliva testing is a feasible option for primary schools to screen for COVID-19 in their student population to help keep their campuses safe and open for learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-220
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Outcomes Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • COVID-19
  • mitigation
  • primary school
  • saliva testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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