UAE first country to roll out Chinese COVID-19 vaccine for mass use
Published: Dec 24, 2020 09:33 PM

Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: VCG

The United Arab Emirates has become the world's first country to offer Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccines to all citizens and residents for free as part of its efforts to achieve nationwide immunity against the coronavirus. 

Local Chinese people told the Global Times that they have a relatively high enthusiasm for the Chinese vaccine, and many Chinese working in local educational institutes or Chinese state-owned companies have already been vaccinated, with no serious adverse reactions reported.

The inactivated vaccine candidate developed by China's Sinopharm was registered in the UAE in early December with 86-percent efficacy against the virus, said the UAE's Ministry of Health and prevention (MOHAP), based on its interim analysis of phase III clinical trials.

The vaccine is available for free at public and private medical institutions across the Gulf federation's seven emirates, media reported. Emergency use for the vaccine has been initiated to ensure jabs for high-risk people, including frontline medical workers and seniors. The vaccine is included in a national immunity campaign to cover all adults - including all nationals and foreign residents.

"Many Chinese rushed to the vaccination site in Dubai once they heard of the government's approval news. No appointment is needed, and many have to line up for as long as three hours, because there is so far only one injection site in Dubai. Many local people showed curiosity about the Chinese-developed inactivated vaccine, as they pin their hopes on it to stop the local epidemic and get life back to normal," a local Chinese worker surnamed Wang told the Global Times on Thursday.

It marks the first time that a China-developed vaccine is being used in a foreign country for mass inoculation, which again reflects the high expectations for and confidence in the vaccine's efficacy and safety, Chinese observers suggested. 

UAE regulators' analysis on December 9 showed the vaccine to have a 99-percent seroconversion rate of neutralizing antibodies and a 100-percent effectiveness in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease, with no serious safety concerns. Local media suggested that the conclusion is a significant vote of confidence by the UAE's health authority in the safety and efficacy of this vaccine.

It is one more remarkable step for a Chinese vaccine to go abroad, and more countries may follow the lead of the UAE to import the Chinese vaccine after its phase III data is published or if it is proven to be effective in the UAE's mass use, Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based expert on vaccine and a previous employee of Shanghai disease prevention and control system, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The UAE donated batches of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine to other countries such as Egypt on December 11 and Seychelles on Tuesday, which experts said was a chance to further open overseas markets for Chinese vaccines based on trust. "The countries accepted the vaccine on the basis of China's reputation as a reliable solution," Tao noted.

But Tao warned that it is still important to evaluate specific phase III clinical data and results proving the vaccine's efficacy to gain more trust and convince more governments to roll out Chinese vaccines for their citizens.