Russian COVID-19 vaccine trials begin in UAE as cases rise

Russian COVID-19 vaccine
FILE PHOTO: A man receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates December 28, 2020. Picture taken December 28, 2020. REUTERS/Abdel Hadi Ramahi

DUBAI (Reuters) – Abu Dhabi has started Phase III clinical trials of Russian experimental COVID-19 vaccine, known as Sputnik V, amid a surge in infections in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi’s media office said on Thursday.

Initially, the human trial, revealed in October before the recent surge in cases, is seeking the vaccination of up to 500 volunteers at a hospital in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

There will be two doses of the vaccine, 20 days apart, offered to volunteers, the statement said.

Participants must be 18 years of age or older, have not previously been infected with COVID-19 or have engaged in other studies of COVID-19 vaccines, he said.

Phase III trials of a COVID-19 vaccine

Phase III trials of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group are also being carried out by the UAE (Sinopharm). According to the health ministry, the UAE has approved the vaccine. And it is available for free to anyone who wants it, with preference given to more vulnerable people.

The Emirate of Dubai only started to inoculate people with the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTec last month.

In the UAE, which has a population of around 9 million, authorities say that 826,301 vaccines were administered on Tuesday, without specifying what kind. They added that in this year, the UAE expects to vaccinate more than 50% of the population.

Sinopharm’s local partner, G42, said in October that it planned to begin manufacturing the vaccine in 2021.

This week, a G42 spokesperson reported to The National newspaper that this was still the case. G42 did not respond immediately to a request from Reuters for more information about the programme.

Over the last ten days, the UAE has seen more than twice the number of new cases every day. The health ministry reported 2,067 new infections on Wednesday, a daily high.

The UAE does not reveal where diseases or deaths occur in the country. Also, it has not recently announced new steps to prevent their spread.

In total, the Gulf Arab state has reported that 218,766 infections and 689 deaths from the virus.

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