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CommunityHealthWHO approves Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine

The World Health Organization has approved the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, providing international recognition and paving the way to help lower-resource countries vaccinate their populations.The news came at the end of a week in which National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority spokesperson Dr Saif Al Dhaheri told the weekly UAE Government media briefing that almost 70 percent of people over 16 have been vaccinated, to the tune of 10.7 million doses. The UAE also...
Ann Marie McQueenMay 8, 20217 min
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Covid-19 Sinopharm vaccineSheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, was the first to be administered the Sinopharm vaccine/Photo courtesy DOH
The World Health Organization has approved the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, providing international recognition and paving the way to help lower-resource countries vaccinate their populations.The news came at the end of a week in which National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority spokesperson Dr Saif Al Dhaheri told the weekly UAE Government media briefing that almost 70 percent of people over 16 have been vaccinated, to the tune of 10.7 million doses.

The UAE also eased travel restrictions for vaccinated people, cutting mandatory quarantines upon return from 10 days to five days, and adding to the number of green counties that require no quarantine upon return.

Dr Al Dhaheri urged people to continue to adhere to safety measures, like wearing masks and social distancing, and praised the government’s overall response.

“The UAE’s way of handling the coronavirus pandemic is a model to be emulated by others, thanks to the country’s pre-emptive vision, success of frontline heroes and the efforts of health institutions,”” he added.

WHO recommends the Sinopharm vaccine — estimated to be 79 percent effective for all age groups combined — for adults 18 years and older in a two-dose schedule, with a space of three to four weeks between.

The move means that the vaccine can be used as part of efforts to distribute doses more equitably around the world, through programs like the Who-led Covax initiative. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines, according to WHO’s press office.

“The addition of this vaccine has the potential to rapidly accelerate COVID-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO assistant-director General for Access to Health Products. “We urge the manufacturer to participate in the COVAX Facility and contribute to the goal of more equitable vaccine distribution.”

There are pressing epidemiological and economic reasons behind making sure vaccines are distributed to all countries. And those were the focus of the two-day virtual World Immunisation and Logistics Summit in March, which was organized by the Hope Consortium, the Abu Dhabi-led mass vaccine distribution program.

“The scale of what’s needed in terms of the number of vaccinators, engagement with communities and ongoing monitoring, and health system strengthening, is truly unprecedented,” World Health Organization director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the summit.

As long as the virus continues to circulate, people will continue to die, he warned.

“The more transmission, the more variants,” he said. “And the more variants that emerge, the more likely it is that they will evade vaccines.”

The UAE has approved four types of vaccines: Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sputnik and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

The Sinopharm vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group. The vaccine is being produced in Abu Dhabi under the name Hayat-Vax as part of a joint venture between the UAE,  Sinopharm, the Abu Dhabi-based technology company G42 and Julphar, a pharmaceutical manufacturer headquartered in Ras Al Khaimah. When production capacity of the KIZAD-based plant is reached, it will turn out more than 200 million doses per year.

To make the emergency use listing (EUL), a strategic advisory group of experts reviewed all available evidence associated with the vaccine. WHO officials conducted on-site inspections of the Sinopharm vaccine production facility, assessed its quality, safety and efficacy, as well as risk management plans and all the requirements of shipping and storing.

Since Sinopharm is an inactivated vaccine, it has relatively easy storage requirements and is more suitable for distribution in countries with fewer resources. WHO reports that it is the also first vaccine that comes with a small sticker on each vial, designed to change color as the vaccine is exposed to heat — and letting health workers know whether the vaccine can be safely used.

Ann Marie McQueen

Ann Marie McQueen is a journalist with 20 years of experience working in North America and the UAE, much of it as a writer, editor and columnist focusing on the areas of physical and mental wellness...

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