The UAE starts Covid-19 vaccinations in the capital

The United Arab Emirates have initiated Covid-19 vaccinations in the capital, Abu Dhabi, health officials said Monday, days after approving the sting by Chinese drug giant Sinopharm.

The affluent Gulf nation is one of the first countries to begin widespread vaccination after the UK became the first to campaign with a vaccine from US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

The Gulf States of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which are undergoing phase three trials of the Sinopharm vaccine, have officially registered it for public use, having previously been approved for an emergency for frontline health workers.

Residents of the capital can make an appointment via the Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA) hotline.

“The residents can now book an appointment for the vaccine free of charge,” a SEHA operator told AFP. At least 45 hospitals and clinics were reportedly equipped with the vaccine.

Sinopharm – which uses an inactive form of the new coronavirus – is given in two doses 21 days apart, according to SEHA.

The UAE has registered more than 184,000 novel coronavirus cases to date, including 617 deaths.

China has four vaccines, including Sinopharm, in the final stages of development and is well advanced with mass human testing in a number of countries including Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

However, unlike vaccines being developed by Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, little information has been published on the safety or effectiveness of Chinese vaccines.

In Peru, clinical trials of a Sinopharm vaccine were suspended after neurological problems were found in a test volunteer.

The Chinese vaccine front-runners Sinovac and Sinopharm had pre-orders for less than 500 million doses by mid-November – mainly from countries that have participated in studies, according to the London-based consultancy Airfinity.

The British AstraZeneca now has pre-orders for 2.4 billion cans and Pfizer for around half a billion orders.

Two vaccines were tested in the United Arab Emirates in the third phase – the Sinopharm project and the Russian Sputnik-V, named after the satellite from the Soviet era.

The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, said in November that he had received an experimental coronavirus vaccine and had joined other senior UAE officials to participate in the trials.