UAE begins vaccinating Covid-19 in capital

The United Arab Emirates has launched vaccinations against Covid-19 in the capital Abu Dhabi, health officials said on Monday, days after it approved the sting of Chinese drug giant Sinopharm.

The wealthy Gulf nation is one of the first countries to begin widespread inoculation after Britain became the first to launch a vaccine campaign by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Gulf countries UAE and Bahrain, where three-phase tests of the Sinopharm vaccine have been conducted, have both officially registered it for public use after it was previously approved for emergency use for frontline health workers.

Residents in the capital can book an appointment via the Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA) telephone line.

“Residents can order an appointment for the vaccine now for free,” a SEHA operator told AFP, with local reports saying at least 45 hospitals and clinics were equipped with the vaccine.

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

The UAE has so far recorded more than 184,000 new cases of coronavirus, including 617 deaths.

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

But unlike vaccines developed by Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, little information has been released on the safety or efficacy of Chinese vaccines.

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

Sinovac and Sinopharm pre-ordered Chinese vaccines pre-ordered less than 500 million doses by mid-November, according to data from London-based consultancy Airfinity – mostly from countries that have participated in trials.

British AstraZeneca, meanwhile, has pre-orders for 2.4 billion doses, and Pfizer for about half a billion orders.

Two vaccines underwent three-phase testing in the UAE – the Sinopharm project and the Russian Sputnik-V, named after the Soviet era satellite.

Dubai Governor Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum said in November that he had received an experimental vaccine against coronavirus, joining other top UAE officials to take part in the tests.