Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to start vaccine trials

Saudi Arabia is seeking 5,000 volunteers while Bahrain's trial will involve 6,000

In this April 11, 2020 photo, released by Xinhua News Agency, a staff member tests samples of a potential COVID-19 vaccine at a production plant of SinoPharm in Beijing. In the global race to make a coronavirus vaccine, the state-owned Chinese company is boasting that it gave its employees, including top executives, experimental shots even before the government OK'd testing in people. (Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua via AP)

Saudi Arabia plans to conduct a clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s CanSino Biologics on at least 5,000 volunteers, the health ministry said.

The trial in Saudi Arabia will be conducted in Riyadh, Mecca and Dammam, with one group of participants receiving a low dose of vaccine and the other a placebo, the ministry said.

The vaccine has produced an immune response in earlier trials in China.

Meanwhile, Bahrain will begin Phase 3 trials of another China-developed vaccine that is already undergoing testing in the UAE.

The clinical trials of the inactivated Covid-19 vaccine from Sinopharm will be conducted by G42 Healthcare, an artificial intelligence company based in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain's Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Mariam Al Hajri said on Monday.

Dr Al Hajri said the trial would involve an estimated 6,000 volunteers from across Bahrain and would be carried out over a period of 12 months.

Citizens and residents above the age of 18 who do not suffer from chronic or underlying conditions will be allowed to take part.

The trial of the vaccine was approved by the National Health Regulatory Authority following the success of its Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials in China, the Bahrain News Agency quoted her as saying.

The Sinopharm vaccine passed the first and second phases of testing in China without causing any harmful side effects, and generated antibodies in all of the volunteers within two days of receiving the dosage.

In Abu Dhabi, as of August 6, more than 5,000 volunteers had been administered the first of two vaccinations they will receive over 28 days. At least 15,000 volunteers are required for the trial.

G42 Healthcare chief executive Ashish Koshy said the expansion of the trial to Bahrain received a “hugely enthusiastic response" from the Bahraini health ministry and other public health bodies in the kingdom.