Latest: First Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines arrive in Dubai
Dubai has authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with the government set to begin an "extensive" inoculation campaign from Wednesday.
It is the second vaccine made available in the UAE after the Sinopharm jab was approved for nationwide use last month.
Dubai's Supreme Committee for Crisis and Disaster Management said a "wide and free vaccination campaign against Covid-19 with the Pfizer vaccine" would start immediately.
The Ministry of Health announced the emergency registration of the vaccine in the country late on Tuesday.
The decision was made after tests showed the vaccine to be safe and effective, state news agency Wam reported.
Dr Amin Hussein Al-Amiri, assistant undersecretary for the ministry's public health policy and licensing sector, said approval was granted after the vaccine met both international and local standards for safe use.
The UAE Fatwa Council issued a ruling allowing vaccines to be used in compliance with Islamic law
"Coronavirus vaccination is classified under preventive medicines for individuals, as recommended by the Islamic faith, particularly in times of pandemic diseases when the healthy happen to be prone to infections due to the high risk of contracting the disease, therefore posing risk to the entire society," the Council explained.
The Fatwa Council added that even though the vaccine in question contains non-halal ingredients banned by Islam, it's permissible to use it in implementation of the Islamic rule that permits the use of such products in case there are no alternatives.
The council cited the highly contagious nature of the disease as a justification to use vaccines.
The mRNA vaccine was developed by US pharma company Pfizer and the German biotech company BioNTech.
Instead of using deactivated virus, like the Sinopharm vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech shot contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognise the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.
The vaccine developers were the first to announce positive early results from a Phase 3 study that involved more than 43,000 volunteers. The results showed a 95 per cent success in preventing Covid-19 after two doses – administered 21 days apart – and no serious safety concerns.
The vaccine is approved for use in the UK, US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
A vaccination programme is already under way in Saudi Arabia, which authorised use of the inoculation this month.
The kingdom is administering the vaccine in three stages focusing on three groups:
1. Those over 65, professionals most vulnerable to infection and people with more than one health issue or an immune deficiency.
2. Anyone over 50, remaining health practitioners and people with one chronic disease or cancer.
3. Other residents who wish to be vaccinated.
The UAE was the first country to issue government approval of the Sinopharm vaccine, on December 9, citing preliminary research showing it to be 86 per cent effective.
Bahrain approved the Sinopharm inoculation as well as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The UK began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to people outside a trial this month. Shortly after, it advised people with severe allergies not to receive it. The warning was prompted by two NHS staff members who suffered an allergic reaction after being inoculated.
Joe Biden tells of confidence after receiving Pfizer jab
The US president-elect, Joe Biden, was inoculated with his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Monday.
He did so publicly at the ChristianaCare Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware.
“I'm doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared when it's available to take the vaccine. There's nothing to worry about," Mr Biden said.
He said his wife, Jill, received her shot earlier in the day.
Vice President Mike Pence is the highest-ranking US official to receive the vaccine. He was inoculated in front of cameras in the White House on Friday
European Union approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
Inoculations against Covid-19 are due to start across the European Union within days after the European Medicines Agency gave approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
After a closed-doors meeting on Monday, the EU drug regulator said it was recommending the drug be licensed for use in people over 16 years of age, with some exceptions. The pharmaceutical companies will need to submit follow-up data on their vaccine for the next year.
The head of the EU's medicines regulator said it appeared the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would protect against a new strain of the coronavirus found mainly in Britain.
"At this moment there is no evidence to suggest this vaccine will not work against the new variant," European Medicines Agency chief Emer Cooke said as she announced approval of the drug.
Vaccine 'highly likely' to combat new Covid-19 strain
Ugur Sahin, the founder of BioNTech, which created the vaccination with pharmaceutical company Pfizer, said they would know within two weeks if the drug would immunise against the new strain sparking a surge of infections.
The new variant, detected mainly in London and the south-east of England, has prompted worldwide concern because it is estimated to be 70 per cent more transmissible than the original strain.
“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” Mr Sahin said a day after his company’s drug was approved for use in European Union countries.
“But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine can also deal with the new virus variants.”