Dozens of healthcare workers taking part in the UAE's Covid-19 vaccine trial have received their first jabs.
The 109 volunteers, drawn from seven hospitals run by VPS Healthcare, are among more than 10,000 people who have already offered to participate in the initiative.
The Phase 3 clinical trial, which began last month, is being led by Abu Dhabi's health department in partnership with Group 42 and Chinese drug maker Sinopharm.
Dr Mohanad Motasim Mohammed, a general practioner at Medeor Hospital Abu Dhabi, said he was eager to be part of a potential solution to a pandemic which has affected the lives of many of his patients.
“Ever since the pandemic was reported, healthcare professionals have been longing for a vaccine," said Dr Mohammed.
"During the last few months, I have seen many patients who have come to me struggling to breathe and fighting other complications.
"Sometimes, I felt desperate at my limitation in helping the patient as we do not have a proper cure for the disease. We are very optimistic about the UAE’s vaccine trial.
"So, when Seha (Abu Dhabi's public hospitals operator) had invited volunteers to participate in the programme, I wanted to be a part of it.
"We hope the clinical trial programme will be a success and will serve as a cure for this raging pandemic.”
Fellow volunteer Gilbert Jr Frias Soriano, a staff nurse at Burjeel Hospital, has welcomed the recent fall in cases in the UAE but knows the battle to overcome Covid-19 is far from won.
“The condition in the UAE has improved and the number of cases has declined significantly. But still, it is too early for us to say that the threat is over," he said.
"We need a vaccine to get out of this. Millions of people across the world are still suffering. Vaccine trials held across the world are our only hope."
Volunteers will be regularly checked by Seha healthcare workers and are to keep a vaccine log to record any symptoms they experience.
They must visit testing centres a minimum of 17 times over roughly 42 days.
They cannot travel abroad during this time. After the trial, they will have regular phone consultations for up to six months.
Dr Lalu Chacko, medical director of Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi, said the aim is for 500 VPS Healthcare staff members to sign up for the trial.
VPS Healthcare is one of the largest private care providers in the Emirates.
“We at VPS Healthcare have decided to extend our complete support to the UAE’s clinical trial initiative. It is encouraging to see that our healthcare professionals are voluntarily willing to be a part of the programme," he said.
"Our team will be registering for the 4Humanity program in batches. We are expecting at least 500 of our healthcare staff to be a part of this. We exude hope that the clinical trial programme will yield the desired result.”
Up to 15,000 volunteers are wanted for the trial and they must be in good health and between the ages of 18 to 60. Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health Abu Dhabi, was the first volunteer to receive the jab.
A new facility was set up at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre this week to serve up to 1,000 vaccine volunteers a day.
The drop-in clinic will allow for potential volunteers to be registered, examined and selected for the programme.
Volunteers for the Abu Dhabi trial can register at 4humanity.ae or by calling 02 819 1111.