SEnegal Dakar Sinopharm vaccine
A health worker prepares a dose of Sinopharm vaccine. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: The UAE Ministry of Health has approved the use of the Sinopharm vaccine against COVID-19 for children in the 3-17 years age group in UAE.

This was announced by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention in a tweet today.

With this decision, UAE will be able to further ramp up its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This decision to approve Sinopharm vaccine for children 3-17 years old has been taken based on the results of clinical studies, the strict assessment to approve the emergency use of the vaccine and the local evaluation that complies with the approved regulations.

Bridge study

Abu Dhabi’s health regulator, the Department of Health (DoH) announced on Sunday the successful completion of the Sinopharm bridge study, carried out under the supervision of MoHAP, and in collaboration with the Abu Dabi Health Services Company (Seha), the emirate’s public health provider.

The study had enrolled, with full parental consent, a total of 900 children aged between three and 17 years old. It was launched in June (2021), and was the first project in the Middle East and North Africa region designed to study young children’s immune response to being inoculated against COVID-19. Children of different nationalities were enrolled, administered Sinopharm vaccine doses, and closely monitored over the following weeks.

The DoH referred to the participating children and their families as ‘heroes’ in the UAE’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

First for youngest children

The roll-out of the vaccine for this age group in the UAE is likely to support a safer return to school for many children in September, especially as COVID-19 variants increase infection rates worldwide. Till date, the UAE had provided Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to only children aged 12 years and older, and this will therefore be the first chance for residents to vaccinate younger children against COVID-19.

Last year, the UAE also conducted Phase III vaccine trials to test the efficacy of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine among adults, before granting emergency use approval to the vaccine in December. It was the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in the country, with four other COVID-19 vaccines also approved in the following months.

Vaccine administration

The Sinopharm vaccine is an inactivated vaccine that includes two doses delivered about four weeks apart. It has been developed by China National Biotec Group’s (Sinopharm) Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a research wing of the nationally-owned pharmaceutical group in China.

“Research so far has shown that COVID-19 vaccines are remarkably effective and safe. In addition, children have been safely receiving vaccines for multiple diseases and viruses for generations. The Sinopharm vaccine is similar in concept to all of these vaccines,” Dr Ahmed Alsuwaidi, associate professor of Paediatrics and Infectious Diseases, and chair of the Department of Paediatrics, at the United Arab Emirates University, had said at the launch of the Sinopharm bridge study for children.

Vaccine distribution

The UAE has so far administered more than 15.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with more than 64 per cent of the population having received more than two doses till date. In May, authorities also approved booster vaccine doses for residents who had received their second dose at least six months earlier in order to ensure continuing immunity against the Sars-CoV-2 virus.