KT Hero of 2020: New life after Sinopharm vaccine is rolled out

LET THE HEALING BEGIN: An Abu Dhabi resident gets the jab after the UAE approved the vaccine for emergency use. Photo: Ryan Lim
LET THE HEALING BEGIN: An Abu Dhabi resident gets the jab after the UAE approved the vaccine for emergency use. Photo: Ryan Lim

Abu Dhabi - By September 14, the UAE granted emergency approval to administer the vaccine for frontline workers


Karen Ann Monsy

Published: Thu 31 Dec 2020, 5:17 PM

As the world rings in 2021 with cautious optimism, the national vaccination programme is proudly progressing on a large scale across the UAE.

The nation’s visionary leadership has led the way in dealing with the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In January, when the world was waking up to the threats from Covid-19, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, announced the country’s readiness to assist the international community.

On January 29, Group 42 (G42), the Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing company, launched a humanitarian drive to support healthcare workers in China that was trying to contain the viral outbreak. By leveraging its pioneering AI-focused healthcare practice, G42 took immediate action to help detect and prevent the spread of the viral infection.

G42, Sinopharm ink pact

With the world in the middle of a public healthcare emergency, Abu Dhabi on June 23 launched the world’s first Phase 3 clinical trial of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate. G42 and Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm China National Biotec Group (CNBG) signed a clinical cooperation agreement to accelerate the development of a vaccine to support the global community in its fight against the pandemic.

The UAE, which is home to over 200 nationalities, was the preferred choice for the trials. This allowed for robust research across multiple ethnicities and increased its feasibility for global application on the success of the trials.

DoH chairman as the first volunteer

On July 16, the 4Humanity trials started in Abu Dhabi with Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, Chairman, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH) as the first volunteer. G42 Healthcare managed the trials in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Health, the DoH and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha).

G42 Healthcare established a massive throughput laboratory to hasten the detection of the disease; manufactured essential personal protective equipment; conducted research into new vaccines and drug therapies and used its advanced AI capabilities to map and predict trends in the outbreak, virus mutations and help combat the disease.

31,000 vaccinated in six weeks

All these efforts were backed by the whole-hearted response from the members of the community. By August 30, over 31,000 volunteers from over 120 nationalities had received vaccinations. The numbers in just six weeks were one of the fastest Phase 3 trials to recruit and vaccinate volunteers.

Al Hamed said: “This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our wise leadership and its continuous support of scientific research in the healthcare sector. This indeed is an accomplishment in the field of healthcare and will place our country at the forefront of global research efforts to confront this pandemic.”

Vaccine approved for emergency use

By September 14, the UAE granted emergency approval to administer the vaccine for frontline workers.

“The vaccine will be available to our first line of defense heroes who are at the highest risk of contracting the virus,” the UAE’s National

Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) had tweeted.

While the vaccination campaign was in progress, the authorities also deployed a massive national disinfection programme, free Covid-19 testing at high density places, labour accommodations and door-to-door campaigns.

Sinopharm gets official registration

On December 9, the UAE officially registered the Sinopharm vaccine. The Ministry of Health and Prevention in collaboration with the DoH after reviewing the interim analysis of the Phase 3 trials, said the vaccine has 86 per cent efficacy against Covid-19 infection, 99 per cent sero-conversion rate of neutralising antibody and 100 per cent effectiveness in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease. There were no serious safety concerns detected.

Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) started offering the vaccine jab at its primary healthcare centres. Abu Dhabi has also started a volunteer programme for Phase 3 clinical trials of Russian vaccine Sputnik V.

Vaccination programme begins

On December 10, Hope Consortium flew 2 million vaccine doses into Abu Dhabi for storage and global distribution. While Abu Dhabi through the Hope Consortium is facilitating the global distribution of the Sinopharm vaccine, Abu Dhabi Ports has been a core member in the mission with its advanced logistics capacity and capabilities. Abu Dhabi Ports has a 19,000-square metre temperature-controlled warehouse facility spread over a sprawling 40,000-square metre plot in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD) that has the capacity to store and distribute 70 million vaccines. The jabs are offered across many private hospitals and healthcare facilities in the UAE free of cost.


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