PARIS — The United Arab Emirates has approved a Chinese coronavirus vaccine for emergency use for its frontline health workers, its top crisis authority announced Monday.
"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 said in a tweet.
According to NCEMA, 31,000 volunteers have already participated in clinical trials of the vaccine, including 1,000 volunteers with chronic diseases. Phase three trials of the vaccine are ongoing, but the agency said that no unexpected side effects had been detected thus far.
The phase three trials, which began in the Gulf country of 10 million in July, are for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopham. NCEMA said that emergency use for frontline health workers was approved after a set of standards was met and the clinical trials on the 31,000 volunteers were complete. The agency described mild side effects on volunteers like a sore throat, but emphasized a lack of serious side effects.
Phase three trials are carried out with larger numbers of volunteers — typically between 300 and 3,000 — to confirm and expand on safety and effectiveness data from prior phase one and two trials.
The UAE has seen a recent spike in coronavirus cases, recording 5,812 new infections in the last week for a total of 80,266 as of Monday and 399 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University. Abu Dhabi authorities say the country has carried out more than 8.2 million tests.
The Sinopham vaccine won approval from the Chinese government in June, and its phase one and two trials in the UAE saw all patients producing antibodies against the virus after two doses over four weeks, a UAE government statement said in July.
The UAE has increased its cooperation with China in recent years in areas including technology, defense procurement, trade, tourism and health.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic the UAE has been in close cooperation with China around diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines," Taufiq Rahim, a senior fellow in the International Security program at New America, told CNBC on Tuesday.
"It further reinforces the country's unique role in having a close strategic relationship with the world's two leading geopolitical rivals — China and the United States."
The seven-emirate country has also been announced as a partner in testing and enrolment for Russia's coronavirus vaccine, which was the first to be approved by a national government in early September. In the West, three vaccines have reached phase three clinical trials: those developed by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.