UAE Says Chinese State-backed COVID-19 Vaccine 86% Effective

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A Chinese COVID-19 vaccine appears to have crossed the finish line – at least in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that a Chinese state-owned vaccine candidate Sinopharm was 86% effective in protecting against COVID-19 infections based on analysis of data from 31,000 volunteers, according to UAE state media The National. The UAE has now officially registered the vaccine for public use, according to the report, and will begin widespread distribution to its people this week.

The 86% efficiency is just behind the rates reported by pioneers Pfizer and Moderna, who say their jabs stop 94% and 95% of COVID-19 infections, respectively.

The UAE’s approval of Sinopharm’s vaccine “will pave the way for comprehensive protection of the population and responsible opening of the economy,” the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention said. The National Wednesday. The successful trials mark a “major step towards tackling the global pandemic,” the health ministry said.

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Sinopharm had tested two different candidate vaccines for the UAE, both based on deploying inactivated forms of the virus to fight infections. In the announcement, the UAE said it had opted for one of the two candidates – a vaccine originally developed by the Beijing Biologics Institute, rather than one manufactured by the Biologics Institute in Beijing. Wuhan.

Sinopharm did not respond to Fortune request for comment.

Neither the UAE nor Sinopharm have yet released data from the Phase III trials, and it is not clear if, or when, other countries would approve Sinopharm’s candidate based on the UAE trial data. Sinopharm has filed a request distribute its vaccines in China, but the government has yet to respond to the request.

While Sinopharm awaits approval to distribute its vaccines to the general population, The Chinese government has deployed Sinopharm’s vaccine to high-risk groups since July as part of the country’s controversial emergency use program. Scientists have warned against deploying vaccines before the Phase III trials are concluded, but Sinopharm recently said more than one million people in China received injections of its vaccines outside of the trials.

The UAE’s approval and the rapid rollout of Sinopharm’s vaccine may reflect how quickly it has adopted Chinese standards in the COVID-19 vaccine development process. In September, the UAE authorized its own emergency use program and distributed Sinopharm’s vaccines to high-risk groups before the conclusion of the phase III trials.

While the experts raised questions Compared with Sinopharm distributing unproven vaccines, the company has distinct advantages over its competitors in deploying its vaccine. First, its inactivated viral technology means its vaccine will likely be more accessible to low- and middle-income countries. Sinopharm’s vaccines can be stored and shipped at normal refrigeration temperatures (2 to 8 degrees Celsius), while candidate vaccines from U.S. vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna require costly sub-zero cold chain networks for distribution.

Second, the company claims that it will have the capacity to produce 1 billion doses of its candidate in 2021 and has built up a large cohort of international partners through clinical trials. The company tests its candidates by Bahrain, Morocco and Peru, and said in September it had signed agreements for clinical trials in at least seven other countries.

“ large-scale deployment also means that there is already a large distribution system, which has already been subjected to stress tests, ”said Nicholas Thomas, vaccine expert and professor of health governance at Hong Kong City University . Fortune this week. “This is a major advantage in future distribution.”

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