China hopes to work closely with the UAE to strengthen vaccine production and distribution, its ambassador has said.
Ni Jian said the two nations would co-operate on building a regional centre to make Sinopharm doses available to other countries.
Mr Ni, China's ambassador to the UAE, said the new Hayat-Vax facility that will be commissioned in Abu Dhabi's Kizad free zone and produce 200 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine a year, is evidence of their close relationship.
"The Chinese side is willing to deepen vaccine co-operation with the UAE side, and help the UAE build a regional hub of vaccine production and transportation," Mr Ni told The National in an interview.
“The co-operation, in the meanwhile, will make the China-UAE made vaccine available to people of more countries and regions, contributing more to build a global community of health for all.”
Hayat-Vax (Hayat means life in Arabic) is the locally produced version of the Sinopharm vaccine, made possible after the UAE and China signed a major vaccine deal in March.
The doses are being produced at drug maker Julphar’s plant in Ras Al Khaimah that has a capacity of three million a month.
Mr Ni said both countries would work to implement the consensus reached between President Xi Jinping and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
This would “strengthen co-operation and co-ordination in areas such as tripartite vaccine co-operation, vaccine transportation and distribution, and clinical use of traditional Chinese medicine.”
The ambassador spoke of the partnership between the two nations from the clinical trial stage.
“In the face of the sudden outbreak of Covid-19, China and the UAE have stood firmly together and helped each other in overcoming difficulties and setting a global example of co-operation in the fight against the pandemic,” he said.
He gave his “heartfelt thanks” to the UAE for including Chinese citizens in the vaccination programme.
Strengthening relations enter a new stage
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, during a visit to the Emirates in March and an agreement was reached to establish a regional vaccination site in the country for Chinese citizens.
A vaccination centre in Dubai was launched on May 27 to administer Sinopharm vaccines to Chinese visitors.
The ambassador said it was a sign that “Chinese-UAE cooperation against Covid-19 has entered a new stage”.
More than 500 Chinese nationals on short-stay visas have been vaccinated with Sinopharm, and 2,000 more registered with the embassy and consulate will be inoculated.
While the vaccines are free, Chinese visitors need to pay Dh100 per person as a service fee when vaccinated at the Al Safa and Al Mankhool health centres in Dubai.
Mr Ni said the vaccine drive is not yet open to Chinese nationals who live and work in neighbouring countries in the Middle East and Africa region.
“In the current phase, only Chinese citizens who are now in the UAE, over 16 years old and without UAE resident ID are eligible for the vaccination programme,” he said.
“Chinese citizens in other countries are temporarily not eligible for the programme at the moment.”
What is Spring Sprout Action
Mr Ni outlined the efforts taken so Chinese visitors on short-stay visas and without UAE residency could be vaccinated in Dubai.
The programme is called Spring Sprout Action as it holds the promise that the inoculations will effectively fight the pandemic.
“There is a Chinese saying, to sow in the spring and to harvest in the autumn,” Mr Ni said.
The Chinese word chun means spring, while miao translates 'to sprout' and can also refer to a vaccine.
Chun miao or 'spring sprout' refers to a vaccination programme launched in spring that is vigorous and will defeat Covid-19.
The Chinese embassy and consulate have used official websites and WeChat accounts to ask all Chinese nationals aged above 16 years on short-stay visas in the UAE to sign up for the Sinopharm vaccination.
“I wish the UAE an early and complete victory against Covid-19 and a speedy resumption of work,” said Mr Ni.
“China is willing to work with the UAE to continue to deepen our bilateral vaccine co-operation, fully support the UAE’s national vaccination programme, and make greater contributions to building a China-UAE health community and a community with a shared future for mankind.”
The UAE was the first country to grant approval to Sinopharm after a successful large-scale Phase 3 clinical trial.
The vaccine was approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation in May.
It was the sole vaccine used in Abu Dhabi until the Pfizer-BioNTech shot was approved last month.