UAE, Bahrain Plan Sinopharm Booster Shots Amid Efficacy Concerns

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The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will offer a third Sinopharm shot to people who’ve already got two doses, amid concerns over the efficacy of the vaccine.

“An additional supportive dose of Sinopharm is now available to people who have received the vaccine previously and who have now completed more than six months since the second dose,” the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority said.

Bahrain will prioritize front-line workers, residents older than 50 and those with underlying conditions for the booster shots. The Gulf nations, which approved the Sinopharm vaccine late last year, are among the first in the world to unveil plans for booster shots.

China’s Sinopharm Group Co. won World Health Organization backing for its vaccine this month, but there are questions on how the shot, while protecting individuals from developing severe Covid-19, might help stop the virus from transmitting and infecting more people. Sinopharm’s efficacy for preventing symptomatic infections and hospitalizations was estimated to be 79% in all age groups combined, the WHO said.

Other vaccine makers are also racing to develop booster shots. It’s not yet clear when or if these will be needed, or who would get them if they are, but companies are preparing for a scenario where the virus keeps mutating and periodic booster shots may be required.

Booster Shots

The UAE administered third doses to a “small number” of people who didn’t develop antibodies after the first two Sinopharm shots, The National newspaper had reported in March.

Peng Xiao, the chief executive of G42, the company that’s making the Sinopharm shot locally in the UAE, told Bloomberg in March that the firm was “testing if a third shot can help to protect against the new mutations that we see around us.”

UAE, Bahrain Plan Sinopharm Booster Shots Amid Efficacy Concerns

The UAE has one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world, having administered more than 11.5 million doses to its population of about 10 million. Dubai, one of the country’s seven shiekhdoms, is banking on vaccines to achieve its goal of holding the Expo 2020 event this year, after the pandemic forced a delay.

Infections in the UAE have dropped by more than 65% since peaking in January and the country reported the smallest increase in cases this year on Monday. Vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc are approved for use, though the UAE’s inoculation program has hinged on Sinopharm, which is being produced locally.

Bahrain also uses the Pfizer and Astrazenca shots in addition to Sinopharm. Cases in the country have risen since the start of the year.

The Sinopharm shot accounts for roughly 60% of doses administered in Seychelles, which has vaccinated more of its population than any other nation in the world but has still had to reinstate some virus-related curbs as cases surge.

The increase in caseload has raised concerns over efficacy. Seychelles also uses the AstraZeneca vaccine.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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