The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that it approved a Chinese coronavirus vaccine that is being tested in the country after preliminary data showed that it was 86 percent effective.
The U.A.E.’s Ministry of Health and Prevention said it reviewed an interim analysis by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned vaccine maker, of data from late-stage clinical trials that showed its vaccine was 86 percent effective in preventing infection from Covid-19.
Sinopharm’s analysis showed the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease and that there were no serious safety concerns, the government said. It did not say if it conducted an independent analysis of the raw data. But the data represents a political and scientific win for China, which has three other vaccine candidates in late-stage trials. Like the United States, China’s Food and Drug Administration has said a vaccine should be at minimum 50 percent effective before they grant approval, a benchmark also recommended by the W.H.O.
“The announcement is a significant vote of confidence by the U.A.E.’s health authorities in the safety and efficacy of this vaccine,” the ministry said in a statement on its website. A spokeswoman for Sinopharm hung up the phone when contacted for comment.
The data from the U.A.E. may not be a final indicator of the vaccine’s overall efficacy. Sinopharm has been running trials in 10 countries, data from which has not yet been released. By comparison, Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have showed efficacy rates of more than 90 percent.
It is unclear whether the U.A.E. would start a mass vaccination program — the government had already approved the vaccine for emergency use in September for frontline workers at risk of contracting Covid-19. Separately, Morocco said it is preparing to vaccinate 80 percent of its adults, relying initially on a Sinopharm vaccine, the Associated Press reported.
Because the coronavirus has largely been stamped out in China, Chinese vaccine makers had to launch Phase 3 trials in places with active outbreaks to fully conclude whether their vaccines are effective. Sinopharm, which has two vaccines in late-stage testing, is also conducting trials in Bahrain, Jordan, Peru and Argentina and elsewhere, involving more than 60,000 volunteers.
© By: @suilee
Sui-Lee Wee is a correspondent for The New York Times in the Beijing bureau. She has covered China for close to a decade and writes about social issues, gender, genetic surveillance, health care and the intersection of demographics and the economy.