The United Arab Emirates has become the first country outside China to approve emergency usage of a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine candidate, in a vote of confidence for a state-backed drugmaker racing global rivals to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The U.A.E. is following in the footsteps of the Chinese government, which has already approved three of its vaccines for emergency use in China, including two candidates developed by state-owned Sinopharm. Hundreds of thousands of people—from medical staff to state-owned employees and Chinese journalists—have already been injected with Sinopharm vaccines outside of clinical trials, according to the company.
China is behind four of nine vaccine candidates around the world undergoing the last phase of clinical trials. Sinopharm has been testing at least one of its vaccine candidates in the U.A.E. since July, when the company’s chairman said it aimed to complete trials in roughly three months.
Chinese scientists have had to venture abroad to test the efficacy of their vaccines, since local cases of Covid-19 have all but disappeared, according to official figures. The U.A.E. was one of the first countries to help China kick off Phase 3 trials of its vaccines. Such trials are now taking place in roughly a dozen countries, including Brazil, Morocco, Argentina, Pakistan and Russia.
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The U.A.E., like other Gulf states, has deepened ties with China in recent years, seeking technological know-how in return for oil to help diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons. At the same time, Abu Dhabi officials have built strong ties with the Trump administration, which has warned Gulf states to tread carefully with Beijing amid fears that U.S. technology could pass from its allies to China.
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