The United Arab Emirates said a Chinese coronavirus vaccine tested in the Federation of Sheikhs was 86% effective, in a statement that provided few details but marked the first public release of information on shooting performance.
The announcement brought another candidate in the global race for a vaccine to end the pandemic, a scientific effort in which China and Russia compete with Western companies to develop an effective inoculation.
While questions remain about the firing of Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, already at least one country outside of China is considering rolling it out in a mass vaccination campaign. The UAE conducted a trial starting in September of the Sinopharm vaccine involving 31,000 volunteers from 125 countries. Volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60 received two doses of the vaccine for 28 days.
The UAE’s health ministry announced the results on Wednesday via a statement to state news agency WAM, saying they “have reviewed Sinopharm CNBG’s interim analysis of phase III trials.”
“The analysis does not show any serious safety concerns,” the statement said, without specifying whether a participant suffered side effects.
It was not immediately clear whether the announced results only included test participants in the United Arab Emirates or whether they also included results from China and elsewhere. The statement described the vaccine as having received an “official registration” without specifying what that meant.
Emirati officials and Sinopharm did not respond to questions from The Associated Press. However, appeals to SEHA, Abu Dhabi’s health authority, have included an option for individuals to make an appointment to receive a “Covid-19 vaccine”. The center was inundated with calls after the vaccine’s effectiveness was announced.
The Sinopharm vaccine has been approved for emergency use in a few countries and the company is still conducting advanced stage clinical trials in 10 countries. Morocco is preparing for an ambitious Covid-19 vaccination program, aiming to vaccinate 80% of its adults in an operation starting this month that initially relies on the Sinopharm vaccine.
Sinopharm’s injection is based on tested technology, using a killed virus to deliver the vaccine, much like polio vaccinations. Major Western competitors, such as the shot by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, are using newer and less proven technology to target the coronavirus spike protein using RNA. The UK has already started vaccinating people with the Pfizer vaccine.
Senior officials in the United Arab Emirates, including the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, have publicly received the vaccines as part of the vaccination tests.
Already, Pfizer reports that its shot has a 95% efficiency – measuring its performance under controlled conditions – while another RNA candidate from Moderna appears to have an efficiency of 94.5%. The results suggest that a third vaccine from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca is safe and has around 70% effectiveness, but questions remain about its ability to protect people over 55.
During transport, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should be kept at cold temperatures: -70 ° C (-94 ° F) and -20 ° C respectively. The Sinopharm vaccine is believed to be able to travel at a temperature of 2-8 ° C, a major draw for regions of the world where nearly 3 billion people live without stable electricity and refrigeration. In November, the Communist Party secretary for Sinopharm said nearly one million people in China had received his vaccine.