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UAE authorises emergency use of COVID-19 vaccine for frontline health workers

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Emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine has been given the go-ahead in the United Arab Emirates, it has been announced. 

Currently undergoing Phase III clinical trials, the vaccine is being made optionally available to healthcare workers on the frontlines in the Gulf country after showing promising results so far, confirmed the UAE’s Minister of Health and Prevention. Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al Owais said that the vaccine has been authorised for emergency use as “part of the country’s measures to protect health workers in close contact with COVID-19 patients and ensure their safety,” and that it was “fully aligned with the regulations and laws that allow a faster review of licensing procedures.”

THE LARGER CONTEXT

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Led by Abu Dhabi’s G42 Healthcare, results from the final stages of the third phase of its COVID-19 inactivated vaccine reportedly confirmed that the vaccine is “safe and effective, resulting in a strong generation of COVID-19 antibodies.” The Phase III trials, which followed the apparent success of Phase I and Phase II trials conducted by China’s Sinopharm, took place with the help of 31,000 volunteers from 125 nationalities. Approximately 1,000 of those reportedly have a  history of chronic illness.

According to the latest announcement, volunteers only displayed minor side effects “expected as a result of any vaccine”, such as headaches, fatigue and slight pain in the injection area. 

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“The studies related to the safety of vaccination are conducted under the strict supervision of medical teams. Health authorities are following procedures to control the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine,” Al Owais added.

Emergency use of a product such as a vaccine takes into account the target groups, product characteristics, clinical and preclinical study data, and population studies. The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention added that health authorities are now working closely in collaboration with the vaccine developers to monitor the progress of the vaccine and follow necessary safety measures.

At the time of publishing, the total number of registered cases of COVID-19 in the UAE stood at 78,849, with the country seeing a significant jump over the past month due to a number of residents apparently not complying with social distancing rules and preventative measures. The total lives lost from the coronavirus in the country is 399.

More than 8 million COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the UAE so far, and in order to make voluntary testing more accessible, different entities have announced a reduction in prices. For example, earlier this week the Dubai Health Authority announced it has brought down the cost of its COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test from AED 370 (approx. £70) to AED 250 (£53).

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ON THE RECORD

Meanwhile, last month it was revealed that Abu Dhabi’s G42 Healthcare has signed a preliminary agreement with Israel’s NanoScent to develop, distribute, and manufacture a COVID-19 test that can detect positive cases of the coronavirus from exhaled nasal air.

“We are at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 and committed to developing impactful innovative programmes and solutions to improve and safeguard public health,” said Ashish Koshy, CEO of G42 Healthcare at the time. “Through this collaboration with NanoScent, we will be adding another powerful solution to our comprehensive diagnostics portfolio, which already includes PCR and LamPORE testing. 

“This partnership also reaffirms the need to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic through a joint global effort in which best-in-breed organisations share their expertise and technologies for the benefit of society.”

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