DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (UAE) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Tuesday that it will deliver a third time to Chinese state-backed Sinopharm coronavirus vaccines six months after their initial two doses. The move seems to have made the UAE the first country in the world to officially introduce an amplifier.
The briefing comes after some UAE residents reported receiving the third shot amid fears of an inadequate antibody response. Last month, China’s top disease control official acknowledged that the country’s home-made vaccines had low protection against the virus, raising growing questions about the effectiveness of the shot.
Sinopharm vaccine has become the mainstay of the UAE vaccine campaign, one of the fastest in the world per capita. The oil-rich capital city of Abu Dhabi, the glorious city-state of Dubai, has gained widespread immunity in anticipation of rapid economic reopening. Dubai is heavily involved in the heavy-duty tourism aviation industry, which is dominated by the coronavirus.
In addition to efficacy figures, the Chinese manufacturer has released very little public data on its Sinopharm vaccine, which has been criticized for its lack of transparency. However, the shooting is at the heart of China’s own mass vaccination campaign, its enormous efforts at vaccine diplomacy.
The World Health Organization authorized Sinopharm Ambulance earlier this month, possibly paving the way for millions of doses to reach countries in need through the UN-backed COVAX vaccine program. A number of governments, including Hungary, Pakistan, Serbia, the Seychelles, and the Indian Ocean state, already run Sinopharm.
This spring, the UAE was the first in the world to produce its own local version of the Sinopharm vaccine. The widespread vaccination also plays a role in preparing Dubai to host the World Expo in October this year, which is expected to attract around 25 million visitors.
“As part of the state’s initiative to provide maximum protection for the public, the door has been opened for the public to receive an additional supplemental dose of the Sinopharm vaccine for humans,” said Dr. Farida al-Hosani, Emirati Health spokeswoman, in a statement broadcast on state television. :
The government statement did not disclose any additional information, saying all approved vaccines were subjected to strict safety tests. In its first report on shot effectiveness last year, the UAE said the vaccine was 86% effective against the virus, based on an interim analysis without providing further details.
An official from the Emirati state-owned company that distributes Sinopharm began a storm of confusion when he admitted on Dubai State Radio that a “very small number” of residents had already received Sinopharm reinforcements. When vaccine recipients became concerned about their antibody levels, authorities warned the public not to mix different coronavirus vaccines.
Last month, Sinopharm, a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group, described the UAE’s use of amplifiers as “not included in our clinical plan”.
“The country has made its own decision to find some immunocompromised parts of the population or the elderly group. If it finds that they have low levels of antibodies, they can give a third dose, but this is not recommended in our official schedule.” Lee Meng said.
Chinese officials have not immediately commented on the UAE’s decision to drastically expand its amplification shooting program.
Abu Dhabi initially used Sinopharm exclusively for its distribution, while neighboring Dubai offered other options, including Pfizer-BioNTech և Oxford-AstraZeneca. However, in recent weeks Abu Dhabi has also started offering Pfizer. Most of the low-wage workers from Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East who run the UAE economy received the Sinopharm vaccine.
In the United Arab Emirates, infections have been steadily declining since peaks in January as tourists fleeing the blockade flooded the country’s bars and beaches. But the number of new cases is still more than 1,000 a day, which is higher than last year, even though the country has administered a dose of 117 vaccines per 100 inhabitants. Unlike other countries with fast vaccine carriers, such as Israel and the United Kingdom, the UAE has remained open to business since it was lifted a year ago.
Earlier this month, Bahraini health officials, another small sheikh in the Arabian Gulf who relied on Sinopharm for its swift campaign, said the boosting shot “would soon be available to individuals to strengthen herd immunity.”
Following the UAE’s announcement on Tuesday, Bahrain said that the third shot for its Sinopharm recipients would initially go to the priority group, including first responders, residents over 50 and their underlying health conditions.
Associated Press authors in Dubai Jon on Gambler Hu Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan contributed to this report.