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UAE rolls out Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine amid conflicting reports of efficacy

Published on 15/12/20 at 11:11am
Image credit: Tingshu Wang/Reuters

The United Arab Emirates has begun rolling out Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine in its capital Abu Dhabi, despite claims that numerous workers in Uganda who received the Chinese company’s jab later tested positive for the virus.

The widespread inoculation programme is underway just days after the Health Ministry of the UAE approved the vaccine for public use, saying late-stage clinical trials showed it had 86% efficacy.

But the efficacy of the drug has been called into question after MercoPress reported that 47 Chinese citizens working in Uganda had tested positive for COVID-19, despite having received the Sinopharm vaccine. According to the news agency, the Chinese Embassy in Uganda said the majority of the cases were asymptomatic, but “a minority” presented symptoms of the virus.

A later report by The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, claimed none of the workers who tested positive for COVID-19 had been vaccinated before contracting the virus.

The Sinopharm Group is a state-owned pharmaceutical company, offering two of China’s four COVID-19 vaccine candidates. The vaccine in question – which uses an inactive form of the virus to trigger immune responses – was last month administered to around one million people in China as part of a controversial emergency vaccination programme.

In another development causing concern about the reliability of the jab, the Peruvian government just days ago suspended clinical trials of a Sinopharm vaccine in Peru, after one volunteer experienced a “serious adverse event”.

The United Arab Emirates became the first country outside of China to approve Sinopharm’s vaccine for emergency use in September, in a bid to protect the nation’s frontline workers.

Two vaccines – the Sinopharm jab and Russia’s Sputnik-V – have undergone Phase 3 trials in the UAE, where 186,041 coronavirus cases and 618 deaths have so far been reported.

Darcy Jimenez

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