The world’s first phase-III clinical trial of a COVID-19 inactivated vaccine formally began in the UAE on Thursday as cooperation flourishes between Sinopharm, the leading vaccine producer in China, and G42 Healthcare, based in Dubai.
The first group of up to 15,000 registered volunteers – including UAE nationals and expatriates – received the vaccine at a medical center Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed Al Hamed, Chairman of the Department of Health of the UAE, was one of the first to participate in the vaccination trial, according to a statement released by G42. The trial showcases the UAE health authorities’ confidence in Chinese-developed vaccines and its commitment to work with China to overcome the pandemic through collaborative efforts, experts said.
More than 1,000 Sinopharm employees, including the head of the company, have been voluntarily vaccinated, as its phase-I and phase-II clinical trials showed promising results with few adverse reactions compared to other vaccines currently undergoing trials.
The inactivated vaccine researched by Sinopharm has proven to be effective to all strains of the novel coronavirus detected so far, Yang Xiaoming, the head of Sinopharm, told the Global Times on Monday.
The trials are currently being operated by health practitioners from Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA) that are also providing facilities at five of their sites in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, in addition to a mobile clinic, to ensure the trials are readily accessible to the volunteers participating in the program, according to a statement by G42.
G42 Healthcare and SEHA are working toward a minimum of 5,000 participants in the first stage of the program to ensure the reliability of the results.
The UAE was the preferred choice for the cooperation partnership to conduct the phase-III trials for the inactivated vaccine as the nation is home to more than 200 nationalities, allowing for robust research across multiple ethnicities, increasing the vaccine’s feasibility for global application on the success of the trials, said the statement.
Tao Lina, a Beijing-based vaccine expert, told the Global Times that it is normally quicker in clinical trials to see the effects of the vaccine in areas with higher incidence of infection.
Worldwide a total of 13.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 as well as 586,000 deaths as a result of the coronavirus are reported as of press time.
Canada, Brazil and the UAE have all hosted Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccines in phase-III clinical trials.
Currently, there are three vaccine candidates across the world in the last-stage of clinical trials; however, two of them have reportedly not yet been vaccinated as of Wednesday, according to data from the WHO. Tao expects that the first successful COVID-19 vaccine in the world will likely be one of these three candidates.