UAE grants emergency approval of coronavirus vaccine for medics

A phase III trial of a COVID-19 inactivated vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopham began in the UAE in July and is yet to be completed.
Tuesday 15/09/2020
Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health, undergoing a clinical trial for the third phase of the inactive vaccine for COVID-19 in Abu Dhabi, last July. (AFP)
Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health, undergoing a clinical trial for the third phase of the inactive vaccine for COVID-19 in Abu Dhabi, last July. (AFP)

ABU DHABI--The United Arab Emirates on Monday granted emergency approval for use of a coronavirus vaccine, six weeks after human trials in the Gulf Arab state started.

A phase III trial of a COVID-19 inactivated vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopham began in the UAE in July and is yet to be completed.

“The vaccine will be available to our first line of defence heroes who are at the highest risk of contracting the virus,” said the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority in a tweet.

Emirati Minister of Health and Prevention Abdul Rahman Al Owais said the findings of studies during the final stages of phase III clinical trials show that the vaccine is effective and has a strong response, generating antibodies to the virus.

“The vaccine’s safety has been reviewed and results show it is safe for use,” the minister said during a media briefing.

Nawal Al-Kaabi, chairperson of the National Clinical Committee for Coronavirus and the principal investigator of the third phase of clinical trials of the inactive vaccine to combat COVID-19, provided a summary on the vaccine developments, noting that preliminary results had been encouraging.

About 31,000 people from 125 countries took part in the vaccine clinical trials over a period of six weeks, according to Kaabi, who revealed that the vaccine was tried successfully on 1,000 volunteers who suffer from chronic diseases.

“The preliminary results are encouraging, however studies will continue. Side effects are simple and come as expected just like any other vaccine. No dangerous side effects or symptoms have been reported,” she said.

The announcement of vaccine’s emergency approval comes amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases in the UAE, which reported 1,007 cases on Saturday, its highest since the start of the pandemic. There were 777 new cases on Monday.

Emergency use of the vaccine, which is still being tested, was granted after a set criteria and after tests on volunteers, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority said.

Mild and expected side effects occurred but there have been no severe side effects, the agency said, without specifying. It added that 1,000 people suffering from chronic diseases who took part saw no complications.

UAE is at the forefront of countries around the world in the number of total examinations in relation to the population, surpassing 8 million tests since the start of the pandemic.

The country also hosts a number of advanced clinical trial facilities, such as the ADNEC Centre, which is considered one of the world’s largest field clinics for trials, supporting the participation of 31,000 volunteers from 125 nationalities.

Sinopharm secured approval for the trial in late June. The experimental vaccine passed Phases I and II of clinical trials, with 100% of volunteers generating antibodies after two doses in 28 days, an Abu Dhabi government statement said in July.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, inactivated vaccines — made with either inactivated (killed) viruses or with a protein from the virus — are well known and have been used against diseases such as influenza and measles.

Russia in August became the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a coronavirus vaccine, after less than two months of human testing.