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The UAE approves a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine for emergency use

A medical worker, wearing disposable gloves, measures the temperature of a man at a coronavirus screening center on April 1, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Francois Nel | Getty Images

PARIS – The United Arab Emirates has approved a Chinese coronavirus vaccine for emergency use for its front-line health workers, the top crisis authority announced on Monday.

“The vaccine will be available to our first defense heroes who are at greatest risk of getting the virus,”

; the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority said in a tweet.

According to NCEMA, 31,000 volunteers have already participated in clinical trials with the vaccine, including 1,000 volunteers with chronic diseases. Phase three trials of the vaccine are underway, but the agency said no unexpected side effects had been detected so far.

Phase three trials, which began in the Gulf country of 10 million in July, are for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopham. NCEMA said emergency use for frontline health workers was approved after a set of standards was met and the clinical trials with the 31,000 volunteers were completed. The agency described mild side effects on volunteers as sore throat, but stressed the lack of serious side effects.

Phase three trials are being conducted with a large number of volunteers – typically between 300 and 3,000 – to confirm and extend safety and efficacy data from previous phase one and two trials.

The UAE has seen a recent rise in coronavirus cases, which registered 5,812 new infections in the last week to a total of 80,266 as of Monday and 399 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University. Abu Dhabi authorities say the country has conducted more than 8.2 million tests.

Expanding partnerships with China

The Sinopham vaccine won approval from the Chinese government in June, and its phase one and two trials in the UAE saw all patients produce antibodies to the virus after two doses over the course of four weeks, a UAE government statement said in July.

In recent years, the United Arab Emirates has stepped up its cooperation with China in areas including technology, defense procurement, trade, tourism and health.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the United Arab Emirates has been working closely with China on diagnostics, therapy and vaccines,” Taufiq Rahim, a senior fellow in the International Security Program in New America, told CNBC on Tuesday.

“It further strengthens the country’s unique role in having a close strategic relationship with the world’s two leading geopolitical rivals – China and the United States.”

The seven-emirate country has also been announced as a partner in testing and enrollment in Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, which was the first to be approved by a national government in early September. In the West, three vaccines have reached phase three clinical trials: those developed by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

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