Vaccine Phase 3 tests in UAE and Russia promising

Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm has begun Phase III clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine in Abu Dhabi using up to 15,000 volunteers, the government in the capital of the United Arab Emirates said on Thursday.

Abu Dhabi’s government media office on Thursday said that phase-three clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine are underway in the emirate, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The human trial is the first WHO-listed phase-three trial for an inactivated vaccine.

The trial is a partnership between the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG), Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence, and cloud computing company Group 42 (G42) and the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, according to the Reuters news agency.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, was the first to participate in the trial. Around 15,000 volunteers over a period of three to six months will be recruited.

The human trial is a partnership between Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG), Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Group 42 (G42) and the Abu Dhabi Department of Health.

The study, which began on Wednesday, is the world’s first Phase III trial of an inactivated vaccine, G42 Healthcare CEO Ashish Koshy said. Inactivated vaccines are well known and have been used against diseases such as influenza and measles.

No COVID-19 vaccine has yet been approved for commercial use. According to a WHO summary of the state of vaccine development for COVID-19, there are 23 potential vaccines in human trials, with three of them in or starting large-scale late-stage, or Phase III, trials to test efficacy.

The trial will test two vaccine strains and a placebo. Two doses three weeks apart will be administered and volunteers followed for a year, said Nawal Alkaabi, head of the UAE’s COVID-19 Clinical Management Committee.

Around 15,000 volunteers over three to six months will be recruited, initially in Abu Dhabi. They will be 18 to 60 years of age with no serious underlying medical issues and without previous COVID-19 infection, Alkaabi said.

Sinopharm chose the United Arab Emirates because around 200 different nationalities reside there and it has a focus on medical research and fighting the pandemic, Koshy said.

The UAE says it has conducted more than 4 million coronavirus infection tests on a population of around 9.6 million. It has recorded almost 56,000 cases of infection and 335 deaths.

The second phase of COVID-19 vaccine trials in Russia is expected to be finished by Aug. 3, head of the Russian Fund of Direct Investments Kirill Dmitriev said on Thursday.

Right after the third phase starts, it will take place “not only in Russia but also in the Middle East and some other countries,” Dmitriev said.

Russia has been developing 26 vaccines, and one of them, produced by the Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology, has successfully undergone the first phase of trials.

Another vaccine from competing research establishment, the State Scientific Centre “Vector”, is being examined by experts to obtain permission for clinical trials.

Asked about competition in producing a vaccine against COVID-19, head of the Gamaleya Centre Alexandr Ginzburg said: “The globe needs unprecedented amounts of vaccine”, meaning all the producers will have enough clients.

Only people who survived the severe form of coronavirus do not need inoculation against the novel virus as they develop a strong immune response, he added.

He also advised to take a break of at least two weeks between inoculations against COVID-19 and other diseases.

Meanwhile, the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry is preparing to kick-start mass production of the vaccine as soon as clinical testing is finished and approved by medical authorities, its head Denis Manturov said.

According to Manturov, the industry re-profiled its capacities to amplify the production of means necessary to counteract the spread of the pandemic, including rapid tests, medicines against severe pneumonia, and the anti-COVID drug Favipiravir.