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Russian coronavirus vaccine trials begin in UAE as cases rise

Russian coronavirus vaccine trials begin in UAE as cases rise
FILE PHOTO - A man receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates December 28, 2020. Picture taken December 28, 2020. REUTERS-Abdel Hadi Ramahi

Abu Dhabi has started Phase III clinical trials of Russia’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, known as Sputnik V, amid a surge in infections in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi’s media office said on Thursday.

The human trial, announced in October before the recent rise in cases, is initially seeking up to 500 volunteers to be vaccinated at a hospital in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Two doses of the vaccine will be given, 20 days apart, to volunteers, the statement said.

Participants will have to be 18 years or older, have not previously been infected with COVID-19 or participated in other COVID-19 vaccine trials, it said.

The UAE is also conducting Phase III trials of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). The UAE has approved the vaccine and it is available for free to anybody who wants it, with priority given to more vulnerable individuals, according to the health ministry.

Last month, the emirate of Dubai only began inoculating people with the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTec.

Authorities in the UAE, which has a population around 9 million, say 826,301 vaccines had been administered as of Tuesday, without specifying which type. They added the UAE aims to vaccine more than 50% of the population in the first quarter this year.

In October, Sinopharm’s local partner, G42, said it intended to start manufacturing the vaccine in 2021.

A G42 representative this week confirmed to The National newspaper this was still the case. G42 did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for more information on the plan.

The UAE has seen the number of new daily cases more than double in the past ten days. On Wednesday, the health ministry reported 2,067 new infections, a daily record.

The UAE does not disclose where in the country infections or deaths take place and has not recently announced new measures to prevent its spread.

In total, the Gulf Arab state has recorded 218,766 infections and 689 deaths from the virus.

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