China’s Covid vaccine from Sinopharm is 86% efficient, UAE says

An exhibitor shows an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine candidate from China National Biotec Group of Sinopharm Group during the 2020 International Trade Fair for Trade in Services at Beijing Olympic Park on September 5, 2020 in Beijing, China.

Han Haidan | China News Service | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Human trials of a Chinese vaccine in the United Arab Emirates have produced positive results, the UAE national health authorities said on Wednesday, citing an effectiveness rate of 86%.

The number was released by the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Health through the state news agency WAM and includes an “interim analysis” conducted by Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG). The 10 million-inhabitant Gulf state began Phase 3 human trials of the experimental vaccine in July and approved emergency use for health workers in September.

“The registration of this vaccine is a decision in response to the request by Sinopharm CNBG. The announcement is a significant vote of confidence by the UAE health authorities in the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine,” the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday, without elaborating on what “registration” meant. The vaccine itself was developed by the CNBG’s Beijing Institute of Biological Product.

The Phase 3 studies included 31,000 volunteers from 125 nationalities, with the ministry highlighting the UAE’s diverse and large expatriate population – which makes up approximately 90% of the country’s total population – as an advantage in conducting human testing. The volunteers, aged between 18 and 60, took two doses of the vaccine over 28 days.

However, the announcement contained few details. The parameters of the studies, how many patients received the vaccine dose compared to placebo, were not elucidated, and no side effects that occurred in patients were mentioned.

After stating 86% effectiveness, the ministry said, “The analysis also shows the vaccine has a seroconversion rate of 99 percent of the neutralizing antibody and 100 percent effectiveness in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease.” Seroconversion is the process by which an antibody is identified in a patient’s blood.

It added that “the analysis shows no serious safety concerns.”

It is unclear how the 86% potency figure was calculated. CNBC asked Sinopharm for a comment.

The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, reported in early November that he received the trial vaccine shortly after the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan received it. Both tweeted pictures of themselves being vaccinated, praising the work of medicine workers behind the effort.

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