UAE approves another COVID-19 vaccine

07 January 2021

Lab Chat

The UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention intends to give the green light to yet another vaccine for coronavirus, claiming the substance has an 86% efficacy in preventing infections of the disease. It’s the fifth vaccine that has shown promising results to date, but the first one to come from China.

The announcement comes after the vaccine was involved in intensive clinical trials participated in by approximately 31,000 people. The impressive efficacy percentage, alongside the claim that the vaccine prevents sufferers from experiencing moderate or severe symptoms of COVID-19 altogether, makes it one of the most attractive candidates yet.

Encouraging news

The UAE authorities made the announcement about the Chinese vaccine last month, after interim analysis of a clinical trial involving tens of thousands of Emirati citizens showed outstanding efficacy. According to the official press release, the vaccine carries 86% efficacy “against COVID-19 infection”.

That specific phrasing has caused some confusion among external parties, since the majority of coronavirus vaccine candidates are judged on their ability to prevent symptoms, not infection. The press release went on to claim that inoculation with the vaccine would eliminate the risk of contracting a moderate or severe case of the virus, while there were no serious safety implications connected with it.

The other vaccines that have shown promising results thus far carry efficacy rates of between 62% and 95% for preventing the development of symptoms. If, as the press release suggests, this new candidate can offer 100% protection against symptomatic infection, and 86% protection against asymptomatic infection, it will be the most attractive proposition on the table.

A different way of doing things

The new vaccine candidate is manufactured by the China National Biotec Group (CNBG). China has become something of a victim of its own success in containing the spread of coronavirus so well, since it has no citizens of its own to test out vaccines on – which is why the UAE is serving as a cornerstone of its trials. As well as being the only viable candidate to have emerged from China, there are fundamental differences to how the vaccines are created, as well.

For example, all four of the other candidates employ the surface protein of SARS-COVID-2, which is believed to represent the root cause of the disease. Then they either use messenger ribonucleic acid (RNA) to code the protein, or else attach the genes for it to adenoviral vectors. This has resulted in impressive efficacy against symptomatic contractions of the disease and excellent efficacy against severe cases.

By contrast, the CNBG vaccine uses an inactivated virus in order to destroy its ability to infect the host or others with the disease, while still resulting in the same development of immunity. CNBG has two competing divisions of coronavirus vaccine development, one in Beijing and one in Wuhan City, the epicentre of the pandemic outbreak. The vaccine approved by the UAE is thought to have been developed by the former laboratory.

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