Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi health chief volunteers as first patient to test Covid-19 vaccine

Phase-3 trial will last up to six months and involve about 15,000 volunteers from across emirate

The UAE has begun the first globally recognised, last-phase clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine in Abu Dhabi.

The chairman of the Department of Health Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, volunteered as the first patient to test the inactive vaccine, which contains a killed version of the germ that causes Covid-19.

Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, acting undersecretary of the department, which is overseeing the trials, volunteered to be second to test if the vaccine is capable of producing antibodies that fight the coronavirus and provide immunity.

The tests are the first Phase-3 clinical trial for Covid-19 to be listed by the World Health Organisation, officials said on Thursday.

The trial will last between three and six months and will be open to volunteers aged between 18 and 60 living in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Officials said 15,000 volunteers would take part.

Volunteers can register their details at They will undergo a medical test to ensure they are healthy enough to take part.

People of all backgrounds are encouraged to sign up but they must not suffer from any chronic illnesses.

They will be closely monitored for up to year and asked to keep a "vaccine diary" to record any symptoms.

Pregnant women can not be part of the trial, which will be conducted at five healthcare centres and a mobile clinic across the emirate.

The clinical trial process is usually divided into three phases, of which the first mainly looks into the safety of the vaccine.

Phase 2 evaluates immunogenicity – the ability of a foreign substance to provoke an immune response in a human or animal's body – and explores the immunisation process in a limited number of people.

Phase 3 considers the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in a larger population sample.

If a vaccine is confirmed safe and effective throughout the entire clinical trial process, the test is considered successful and the vaccine is manufactured on a large scale.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of Department of Health Abu Dhabi, participates in phase III of the clinical trial for the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Abu Dhabi Government Media Office
Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of Department of Health Abu Dhabi, participates in phase III of the clinical trial for the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Abu Dhabi Government Media Office

At present, no Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for commercial use. The WHO says human trials have begun on 23 potential vaccines worldwide.

The UAE's trial is the first to reach Phase 3 with an inactivated vaccine, which have been used against diseases including influenza and measles for decades.

The UAE will test two vaccine strains and a placebo.

Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, principal investigator and chief medical officer of Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, where is taking part in the trials, said volunteers would be given two doses three weeks apart.

“Our participation in this trial enables us to make a major contribution in the global fight to combat the Covid-19 pandemic," Dr Al Kaabi said.

"It is a matter of national pride that we are able to help facilitate the trial process that could have a worldwide impact and help people around the world to benefit from research and, if successful, the manufacture of a vaccine to fight back against this disease.”

Dr Walid Zaher, group research director, said he expected to recruit the required number of volunteers over the next few months.

“Today is a remarkable day," Dr Zaher said. "This is one of the first steps in fighting the pandemic.

"It is part of a series of initiatives that also introduce local capacity."

The UAE announced in late June that it would begin Phase 3 trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, working with a Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm and Group 42, an artificial intelligence and cloud computing company in Abu Dhabi.

G42 is leading the clinical trial operations in the UAE, under the supervision of the Department of Health of Abu Dhabi.

Sinopharm's inactivated vaccine has already passed Phases 1 and 2 of clinical trials in China without showing any serious adverse reactions.

All volunteers involved in the trials generated antibodies after two doses in 28 days.

The company said the UAE was chosen as the location for the trial because of its varied demographics.

The trials are also being supervised by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, Seha.

The processes were steered by guidelines from the WHO and the US Food and Drug Administration.

Updated: July 17, 2020 02:28 AM


Sign up to:

* Please select one