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Sinopharm vaccine explainer: Everything you need to know after UAE approval

Published: Updated:

The United Arab Emirates has officially registered China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, potentially paving the way for mass vaccinations for the general public.

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The Sinopharm vaccine was has been tested on around 31,000 people in the UAE and was approved for emergency use for frontline workers in September.

Officials in the UAE have not yet said when the vaccine will be available to the general public, but countries have begun to rollout vaccines, including the UK.

Here is what you need to know about the Sinopharm vaccine.

Is it reliable?

Sinopharm’s vaccine has shown 86 percent efficacy in preventing COVID-19 infection, according the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP). No serious safety concerns were found during trials.

Phase-III trials in the UAE found that the vaccine had an efficacy rate of 86 percent in preventing infection – and it was 100 percent effective in preventing moderate to severe cases of the novel coronavirus.

However, all vaccinations do pose some risk. Mild adverse reactions to Sinopharm’s vaccine have been recorded in UAE trials, but no serious side effects have been observed.

Britain’s medicine regulator, for example, advised people with significant allergies not to receive Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine after two people reported adverse reactions on its first day of rollout on Wednesday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum receives a coronavirus vaccine. (Twitter)
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum receives a coronavirus vaccine. (Twitter)

Where else is it being used?

The Sinopharm vaccine has been approved for emergency use in China and has been given to around 1 million people. There are hopes it will see full approval in 2021.

Morocco has ordered 10 million doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine and plans to vaccinate 80 percent of its adult population for free.

The Sinopharm vaccine is being tested in six other countries including Bahrain and Peru, according to financial newspaper Nikkei Asia, and the company says that it has struck deals for distribution with 10 countries.

This picture taken on December 17, 2020 shows Saudi Arabia's Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah waiting to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine. (AFP)
This picture taken on December 17, 2020 shows Saudi Arabia's Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah waiting to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine. (AFP)

How does it compare to other vaccines?

Sinopharm’s vaccine’s efficacy is lower than that of several in development by other companies including Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and the Gamaleya Research Institute (Sputnik V).

The company said in August that the two-dose course of treatment would cost $144.27. In comparison, Moderna said in August that its vaccine would cost between $32 and $37 per dose. It was reported last month that the European Union will pay $18.34 per dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Sinopharm’s vaccine is inactive, meaning that it contains dead COVID-19 cells. This means it does not offer as much immunity as a live vaccine, according to The Vaccine Page, a website that tracks vaccine development. Both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines, however, are mRNA vaccines, which work by using cells that mimic the coronavirus.

With Reuters and The Associated Press.

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