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Sinopharm’s new vaccine will be produced in UAE through a joint venture with a local firm. Photo: Shutterstock

New Chinese Covid-19 vaccine targeting multiple variants is approved in UAE

  • Sinopharm’s ‘second-generation’ jab found to be able to stimulate antibodies against virus and unspecified ‘major variants’
  • UAE approves it for emergency use as a booster after study involving people already vaccinated with two doses of Sinopharm’s previous vaccine
A new Covid-19 vaccine from Chinese firm Sinopharm that it says protects against multiple variants has been approved for emergency use in the United Arab Emirates.

China National Biotec Group (CNBG), the vaccine development arm of Sinopharm, said on Monday that the vaccine would be provided as a booster for those who had previously taken its vaccines, but did not state which variants the vaccine protected against.

The group’s previous vaccine was the inactivated type, made by killing – or inactivating – the whole virus to destroy its disease-producing capacity. Its new vaccine is based on a different technology called recombinant protein, which involves genetically modifying the coronavirus.
“The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention approved the emergency use of Sinopharm recombinant protein vaccine, the world’s first second-generation Covid-19 vaccine,” the statement said. “It has broad-spectrum protection against multiple variants.”


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The vaccine had been given to nearly 2,000 people in the UAE during a study, with preliminary results indicating it was “safe and well tolerated, and can stimulate high levels of neutralising antibodies against the prototype strain and major variants”, it said.

The vaccine is not in use in China, but CNBG announced in September that it had developed a second-generation protein vaccine targeting not only the original virus but also other variants including Delta. The world’s first generation of vaccines had based their designs solely on the original strain of the virus.

A recombinant protein Covid-19 vaccine contains a genetically modified spike protein from the coronavirus to trigger an immune response from the body without making people sick. A further substance is usually added to boost its performance. The method is commonly used in vaccines against other diseases, such as influenza.

The new Sinopharm vaccine is based on a part of the coronavirus spike protein called the receptor binding domain, which docks on the host cell to initiate the process of infection.

In a paper published this month in Frontiers of Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal from the Chinese education ministry, CNBG researchers compared two groups of participants, one given a booster of the new protein vaccine and the other given a booster of the inactivated vaccine, with both groups having had two doses of inactivated vaccine more than six months earlier.

They found that the levels of protective antibodies were more than three times higher in those who had the new protein vaccine as a booster. The exploratory study was small, involving only five participants per group, the authors said.

The UAE ministry said in a statement that its approval for emergency use had followed “strict monitoring and evaluation of the data of the study conducted in the UAE”.

The study included people who were previously vaccinated with two doses of Sinopharm’s inactivated vaccine. All developed protective antibodies after having the new vaccine and no side-effects were recorded, the UAE ministry said.


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“The vaccine demonstrated an improved immune capacity against the Sars-CoV-2 variants, with a high safety rate that allows rapid production and easy storage and distribution,” it said.

The new vaccine will be produced and distributed by Hayat Biotech, a joint venture between UAE firm G42 and Sinopharm, and will be available to the public as a booster dose starting in January. The venture has been producing Sinopharm’s previous Covid-19 vaccine locally under the name Hayat-Vax.