UAE approves urgent use of China-developed COVID-19 vaccine after test on 31,000 volunteers

By Hu Yuwei and Leng Shumei Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/15 20:28:40

A staff member displays a sample of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at a vaccine production plant of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in Beijing, capital of China, April 10, 2020. Photo:Xinhua

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday granted emergency approval for use of a coronavirus vaccine developed in China, six weeks after human trials on the vaccine started in the country.

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention announces emergency approval for the use of the candidate COVID-19 vaccine, according to Twitter posts from the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority on Monday. 

The vaccine will be available to the first line of defense heroes who are at the highest risk of contracting the virus, in order to protect them from any dangers and provide safety precautions, according to the authority.

The move is aimed at contributing to saving the lives of millions of people and providing health care for the infected while the Gulf state reported 777 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, making the number of total infections exceeding 80,000, according to the authority.  

The drug is an inactivated vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). Phase III clinical trials on the vaccine kicked off in the UAE on July 16, which is the world's first Phase III clinical trial program on a COVID-19 candidate vaccine. 

It had been used on 31,000 volunteers representing 125 nationalities since the clinical trials kicked off in the UAE. Mild and expected side effects have occurred but no severe side effects have been encountered, according to the authority. 

Among the volunteers, 1,000 were suffering from chronic diseases and no complications occurred after vaccination, the authority said, noting that "the results of clinical trials in our country are moving on the right path, with all tests being successful so far."

Clinical trials on the vaccine tested in the UAE are also being conducted in Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt at the same time. The volunteers have now entered the next stage, receiving their second shot, and continuing to undergo regular monitoring and health checks, with full ongoing support provided by health services to ensure their wellbeing, read the statement, Chief Executive Officer of Group 42 (G42) Healthcare Ashish Koshy told the Global Times on Monday in a statement. 

G42, an Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company, is Sinopharm's partner   that is leading clinical trial operations in the UAE under the supervision of the Department of Health of Abu Dhabi.

One of the company's advantages is that they can use AI and supercomputing expertise to process the trial results far more quickly than vaccine trials in the past, Koshy said. 

In the G42 statement to the Global Times, an Emirati volunteer was quoted as saying that "I'm very proud to be taking part in the clinical trials. The medical staff have been very clear and helpful in explaining the entire process. I'm very optimistic that the clinical trials will be successful for the UAE and for humanity, and we will have a very successful vaccine against COVID-19."

Sinopharm developed two kinds of inactivated COVID-19 vaccines and the company previously announced that 100,000 injections of the vaccines have been given, and none of the people who received the vaccines have shown adverse reactions, with none contracting COVID-19. 

Results of Phase I and II clinical trials on the two vaccines were released in June with 100 percent of volunteers generating antibodies after two doses in 28 days, the company said.

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