China is strengthening its ties to the U.A.E. by setting up mass production of the Sinopharm vaccine, which is already being widely used in the U.A.E.’s vaccination roll-out. Some of the U.A.E. residents who received two doses of Sinopharm are now being told to take a third dose, as it is uncertain whether two doses are effective enough.
The U.A.E. is undergoing one of the world’s highest and quickest vaccination rollouts, behind Israel. The Khaleej Times recently bragged about the U.A.E. having “administered 69,142 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in the past 24 hours,” bringing total doses up to 7.79 million—78.86 percent, they calculated. The U.A.E.’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, said that their efforts add “value to the international efforts being made in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, which has been taking a toll on everyday lives across the world.”
As was announced on March 28, Sinopharm will be teaming up with U.A.E. based Group 42 (G42), a company heavily involved in artificial intelligence, to manufacture an Arab version of Sinopharm called Hayat-Vax, which will be identical to Sinopharm. Hayat-Vax will be manufactured in Abu Dhabi and Serbia, where a manufacturing facility is set to open up in October. According to Bloomberg, G42 is aiming to produce 200 million doses per year. Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries is already manufacturing 2 million doses per month.
The Wall Street Journal reported that some people in the U.A.E. had received their third dose of the Sinopharm vaccine because the first two did not generate enough antibodies. The U.A.E. has been the prime testing ground for Sinopharm, which has also been used in Hungary, Serbia, and Pakistan. Dr. Farida al Hosani, a U.A.E. government spokeswoman on health affairs, said to the local news that the number of people who received the third dose was minimal compared to those who received the first and second.
Two doses of the vaccine, not enough
The Wall Street Journal spoke with eight U.A.E. government employees who said they were not participating in any studies but were called up to get a third dose. “I was not given any reason or explanation when I was called,” one of the individuals said. “I was just told to show up for a booster shot.” In December 2020, a closed-door presentation was given to government officials in the U.A.E., explaining to them that a third dose of Sinopharm may be necessary for those who did not receive the proper antibody response.
One Doctor in China recently tested positive for COVID-19 after receiving two doses of an unspecified Chinese vaccine. This led Gao Fu, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention director, to concede that two doses of the vaccine may not be enough, based on the idea that the vaccine produces antibodies in the body while the infection occurs in the respiratory tract. “The antibodies in the body [produced after taking the vaccine] may not be so good for preventing respiratory infections,” Gao said, adding that two doses might not induce enough antibodies, which could be created with a third dose.
The U.A.E. has rated Sinopharm as 86% effective according to their studies, while Chinese researchers state that it is 79% effective. The Wall Street Journal found that the price for two doses of Sinopharm in Hungary was approximately €63 or $75, while two doses of Pfizer, by comparison, costs $39 in the U.S.