DUBAI (Reuters) – Abu Dhabi has started Phase III clinical trials of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine amid a surge in infections in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi’s media office said on Thursday.
The human trial, announced in October before the recent rise in cases, is initially seeking up to 500 volunteers to be vaccinated at a hospital in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Two doses of the vaccine will be given, 20 days apart, to volunteers, the statement said.
The UAE is also conducting Phase III trials of a vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). The UAE has approved the vaccine and it is available for free to anybody who wants it, with priority given to more vulnerable individuals, according to the health ministry.
Last month, the emirate of Dubai only began inoculating people with the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTec.
Authorities in the UAE, which has a population around 9 million, say 826,301 vaccines had been administered as of Tuesday, without specifying which type. They added the UAE aimed to vaccine more than 50% of the population in the first quarter of this year.
In October, Sinopharm’s local partner, G42, said it intended to start manufacturing the vaccine in 2021.
A G42 representative told Reuters on Wednesday plans for manufacturing in the UAE were at an advanced stage and more details would be made available soon.
The UAE has seen the number of new daily cases more than double in the past ten days. On Wednesday, the health ministry reported 2,067 new infections, a daily record.
The UAE does not disclose where in the country infections or deaths take place and has not recently announced new measures to prevent its spread.
In total, the Gulf Arab state has recorded 218,766 infections and 689 deaths from the virus.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell and Lisa Barrington. Editing by Mark Potter and Nick Macfie)