Everything we know about Hayat-Vax as distribution of UAE's Covid-19 vaccine begins

Hayat-Vax is the locally-produced version of the Sinopharm vaccine

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Distribution of the first UAE-made Covid-19 vaccine is under way.

Hayat-Vax, a the locally-produced version of the Sinopharm vaccine, is a key part of the UAE's wide-ranging strategy to support inoculation drives both at home and abroad.

Vials began rolling off the production line in March, and there are plans in place to increase capacity to 2 million doses a month.

On Monday, the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority announced distribution of the vaccine had begun.

The UAE rolls out its home-produced vaccine

The UAE rolls out its home-produced vaccine

No further details on where the first batches of the vaccine will initially be delivered to were confirmed.

The Sinopharm vaccine was given approval for emergency use by the World Health Organisation last week.

That opened the door to its wide distribution in lower-income nations by adding the vaccine to the Covax programme, which provides equitable access to vaccines against Covid-19.

The National explains everything you need to know about Hayat-Vax.

Where is the vaccine being produced in the UAE?

The Hayat-Vax Covid-19 vaccine will be produced in the UAE. WAM
The Hayat-Vax Covid-19 vaccine will be produced in the UAE. WAM

At Emirati drug maker Julphar's plant in Ras Al Khaimah under the brand name Hayat-Vax. Hayat means "life" in Arabic.

The UAE began producing the vaccine after striking a deal with China to permit Abu Dhabi's Group 42 and Julphar to manufacture the vaccine.

UAE to play role in Covax drive

In March, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said the UAE would support the Covax drive to provide affordable doses to the developing world.

"We believe that every person has the right to obtain the vaccine without discrimination," he said at an online conference hosted by the Hope Consortium, an Abu Dhabi-based logistics collective set up to deliver vaccines around the world.

Experts have said that help is much needed.

As of last week, Covax had only shipped about 50 million of the two billion doses it aims to distribute globally this year.

India was expected to supply half of the total with its Covishield vaccine, a locally-produced version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but it has stopped exports due to the surge in new cases there.

Deliveries by Pfizer-BioNTech have reportedly been limited, and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has not yet shipped. Moderna’s vaccine was only listed by the WHO shortly before the Sinopharm vaccine.

Hayat-Vax, which can be kept at normal fridge temperatures, is easier to use in low income countries than the mRNA vaccines, which need ultra-cold storage.

Most of Africa, for example, relies on Covax for its supply. It lacks the infrastructure to store Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, making Hayat-Vax more suitable for distribution there.

Where is the Sinopharm vaccine in use?

It has been approved for use in 45 countries and more than 65 million doses have been administered so far.

The UAE became the first country in the world to grant approval to the vaccine, after a successful large-scale Phase 3 clinical trial. The vaccine was found to have 78 per cent efficacy by WHO.

The vaccine is 100 per cent effective at preventing death, 93 per cent effective in preventing the need for hospitalisation care and 95 per cent effective against admission to intensive care, according to research conducted in Abu Dhabi, where the vaccine has accounted for the overwhelming bulk of Covid-19 shots.

It was the sole vaccine used in Abu Dhabi until the Pfizer-BioNTech was approved last month.