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A scientist prepares samples during the research and development of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: More than 10,000 people from 20 different nationalities have now enrolled for the Phase III of the inactivated vaccine trials in Abu Dhabi.

In a statement, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DoH), the emirate’s health-care regulator, said approved volunteers will now be monitored intensively for about 42 days, requiring a minimum of 17 visits to testing centres operated by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha).

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The WHO-listed trials pertain to a vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical giant, Sinopharm China National Biotec Group, in collaboration with Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company, Group 42, and Seha.

They were kicked off in Abu Dhabi last week, with DoH chairman, Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, registering as the first volunteer.

Testing requirements

The DoH said trial volunteers will not be able to leave the UAE during the approximately 42-day-long testing period, and will need to have easy access to the clinics. Following this, periodic checks will be conducted via teleconsultation for up to six months. A team of scientists will then analyse the results as part of the trial’s progression.

“The UAE is a beacon of humanity and home to a very diverse community. These elements have made the UAE one of the most important places to conduct the trial and is aligned with our leadership’s key role in addressing the global pandemic’s effects in many corners of the world,” said Dr Jamal Mohammed Al Kaabi, DoH acting undersecretary and the trial’s second volunteer.

“I am very pleased with the response from the UAE community in joining together to overcome the virus. A large number of volunteers, consisting of 20 different nationalities, have come forward to be part of the clinical trials. This will help demonstrate that the trials have a high chance of efficacy and show the vaccine’s effects across a wide range of demographics,” he said.

“The UAE’s leadership has enabled us as a country to be at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, through the provision of various health-care resources and initiatives to finally arrive at a vaccine for COVID-19. The UAE’s government recently called on the community to participate in the vaccine trials, which was a pivotal moment in promoting the safety of the trials. The campaign not only helps in combatting COVID-19, but will also provide a highly effective approach to measuring the vaccine’s effects,” said Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, executive medical director at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, and chair of the National Clinical Committee for COVID-19.

Vaccine safety

The vaccine under trial has successfully passed the first two phases of trials in China, in which 1,120 people participated. The volunteers in China received two doses of the vaccine, and 100 per cent of patients who received the medium-strength vaccine 28 days apart produced detectable levels of antibodies. In addition, 97.6 per cent of people who received low-strength or high-strength doses, 28 doses apart, also produced antibodies.

In Abu Dhabi, the trials are being conducted under the close supervisions of the DoH, and the entire process is being implemented using medical and safety guidelines outlined by the Research Ethics Committee - Abu Dhabi, the WHO, and Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA). These entities will be involved in the approval of the entire clinical study.

Hamad Al Balushi, an Emirati, has expressed his joy in being one of the first successful volunteers chosen to undergo the vaccine’s trial. He hopes that the entire process is highly successful to benefit both the UAE and global communities.

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“The UAE’s government and its people have shown us all the importance of doing good for all of humanity. I am very proud to be one of the first volunteers in this historic trial and invite all my brothers and sisters to join me. I would like to thank Abu Dhabi’s entire health-care sector for its tireless work in maintaining the safety of the community, and development of this vaccine which will benefit people of the world. I pray to God that we continue raising the UAE’s flag high,” said another volunteer from Oman.

How to participate

In order to participate in the trials, volunteers have to be present in the UAE, be healthy, and between the ages of 18-60. At this stage, the volunteers have to be based in the capital or Al Ain. Talks are, meanwhile, ongoing to extend the trial to the rest of the UAE. Registration can be complete at