Dubai Rolls Out Free Vaccines as UAE Approves Pfizer Shot

The United Arab Emirates has approved the coronavirus shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, and Dubai unveiled plans to start a free vaccination campaign starting Wednesday.

The emergency registration in the UAE was in response to a request from Pfizer, state-run WAM reported, and comes two weeks after the country approved a vaccine developed by Sinopharm unit China National Biotec Group.

The Sinopharm shot has already been made available to residents free of cost after trials in the UAE, of which Dubai is a part, showed that it protected 86% of people against Covid-19. Pfizer and BioNTech have said their vaccine is 95% effective in preventing the illness.

“An extensive vaccination campaign against Covid-19 kicks off in Dubai on Wednesday,” the city’s media office said. “Vaccination will use Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine and is free of charge.”

According to the Dubai Health Authority’s hotline, the first phase of vaccinations will target senior citizens and residents aged 60 and above. Inoculations will also be provided to people with chronic diseases aged 18 or above, and to frontline workers.

Pfizer’s shot is based on messenger RNA -- a new technology that essentially transforms the body’s cells into tiny vaccine-making machines, instructing cells to make copies of the coronavirus spike protein, which stimulates the production of protective antibodies.

While mRNA vaccines have showed higher efficacy, those present distribution challenges for some nations as they require deep-freeze facilities and trucks. The Sinopharm vaccine can be transported and stored at normal refrigerated temperatures.

Dubai, the Middle East’s business hub, locked down the city for about a month earlier this year to halt the spread of the virus. Its flagship Emirates airline grounded passenger flights and the Expo 2020 exhibition scheduled to start in October was delayed by a year. Flights have since resumed operations.

More than 195,000 people in the UAE have tested positive for the virus since the start of the outbreak. The Gulf nation has reported more than a thousand cases a day for the past two months after they dropped to as low as 164 in August.

The country has a case-fatality rate of 0.3%, among the lowest globally, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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