UAE chose Sinopharm for quick access to Covid-19 vaccine, official says

Ability to conduct local trials and manufacture the vaccine in the Emirates was a key part of deal

The UAE based its nationwide immunisation drive on the Sinopharm vaccine because of its early availability and the potential to produce shots locally.

The Emirates, which has one of the fastest vaccine programmes in the world, entered talks with 23 companies and engaged with them over three main factors, said Dr Omar Najim, executive office director at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health.

Early procurement and purchasing were among the main considerations, while conducting local clinical trials and manufacturing the vaccine in the country were the other points of engagement.

“Sinopharm we felt very happy about. We have our own results,” Mr Najim told Bloomberg.

We haven’t hit a place where we’re struggling to find people to vaccinate

Omar Najim, executive office director of Abu Dhabi's Department of Health

More than 6.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered across the country to date.

The Sinopharm product is the most widely used coronavirus vaccine in the UAE and showed an efficacy rate of 86 per cent in local Phase 3 trials.

The UAE approved the vaccine after carrying out trials that involved 31,000 volunteers and it plans to begin manufacturing the vaccine this year.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has been granted emergency authorisation but the Emirates has not yet received any doses.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are approved for use in Dubai.

“I think we secured enough, hopefully, to get to good numbers to continue the vaccination drive we have,” Mr Najim said.

He said the UAE had a delivery schedule on Sinopharm doses.

“We haven’t hit a place where we’re struggling to find people to vaccinate," he said.

At present, vaccines are being prioritised for Emiratis, the elderly, people with chronic diseases and the disabled.

But authorities said this was only a temporary move to encourage some of the most vulnerable members of the community to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

More than 400,000 cases have been reported since the start of the outbreak. About 1,200 people have died, giving the country one of the lowest Covid-19 mortality rates in the world.

“We are putting things in place, which is investing more in manufacturing and localising some of what we need, even though it might not pay return on investment in the longer term,” Mr Najim said.

“But nevertheless, it becomes a national security element. That’s something that we’ll be taking forward.”

Updated: March 4, 2021 05:25 PM

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