People are waiting for their turn to be vaccinated against the coronavirus on February 3, 2021 at a vaccination center at the Dubai International Financial Center in the Gulf emirate of Dubai. The UAE has administered more than a quarter of at least three million doses to its population.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are offering a booster shot of the Sinopharm vaccine developed in China to residents and citizens who have already received two doses, the country’s medical authorities said.
“An additional supportive dose of Sinopharm is now available to people who previously received the vaccine and have now completed more than six months since the second dose,” the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority tweeted Tuesday evening.
Bahrain’s National Medical Task Force to Fight the Coronavirus announced at the same time “The opening of registration for a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine for the most vulnerable groups in Bahrain, at least 6 months after taking the second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine, for first responders, as well as for citizens and residents over 50 and those who suffer from obesity, low immunity, or other underlying health conditions. “
The announcements come amid questions about Sinopharm’s effectiveness and reports of Covid-19 reinfections in people who have received their two shot doses.
The World Health Organization in early May approved Sinopharm for emergenciesThis makes it the first non-Western vaccine to receive the green light for the organization. Developed by China’s state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group (commonly referred to as Sinopharm), it is one of the country’s two main intakes, administered to millions of people in China and elsewhere, especially in developing countries.
The UAE’s vaccination campaign, one of the fastest in the world, has relied heavily on the Sinopharm shot since the end of 2020, which is available to all residents and citizens. Pfizer / BioNTech, AstraZeneca / University of Oxford, and Sputnik V vaccines are also available in Dubai for several months, while the United Arab Emirates’ capital, Abu Dhabi, only offered Sinopharm to its residents until it recently changed course to end April also to offer Pfizer.
The United Arab Emirates government announced in December last year that the China National Biotec Group (a subsidiary of Sinopharm) was conducting an “interim analysis” of the vaccine’s Phase 3 trials in Abu Dhabi found it 86% effective. However, the announcement contained few details and did not reveal how that 86% figure was calculated.
In the same month, China announced the vaccine effective as 79.34% based on what it said, “preliminary testing data” was with no release of Phase 3 results, which was at odds with UAE figures.
In one national case that raises more concern, Seychelles – the most heavily vaccinated country in the world, where around 60% of those vaccinated have received Sinopharm – sees a new wave of Covid cases among vaccinated residents. The Ministry of Health reported in mid-May that more than a third of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the week leading up to May 8 had been fully vaccinated. The World Health Organization has announced that it will review coronavirus data from the island nation.
Sinopharm has not responded to multiple CNBC requests for comment.
The UAE will play an important role in expanding access to vaccines in developing countries thanks to its partnership with China to manufacture millions of doses locally through a joint venture between Sinopharm and UAE-based tech company G42. The vaccine made in the UAE is called Hayat-Vax. Hayat means “life” in Arabic.
In March, the UAE gave “a small number” of people who did not develop antibodies after their first two shots the third dose of Sinopharm, local news reported.
Coronavirus cases in the UAE peaked at around 4,000 a day in late January but have since dropped to less than 1,500 a day. After a very strict spring lockdown in 2020, the Gulf Sheikh’s economy has reopened completely. The commercial capital of Dubai is one of the first places in the world to resume tourism and personal conferences.
Nevertheless, it has been on the “Red List” for Great Britain, a top tourism partner, since January. France and a number of other EU countries have also put the UAE on their red list and require a ten-day quarantine upon arrival.
At the end of April the UAE announced that it would consider “strict measures” to limit the movement of people unvaccinated against the coronavirus to expand its national vaccination campaign, which has already fired nearly 11.5 million shots in its population of around 10 million people.