The United Arab Emirates has announced it will begin offering booster shots to those who received the Chinese state-backed Sinopharm vaccine six months after vaccination.
The brief statement comes after some in the UAE received a third shot amid concerns of a low antibody response from the vaccine. Last month, China’s top disease control official, in a rare acknowledgement, said current vaccines offer low protection against the coronavirus.
China has distributed hundreds of millions of doses of domestically made vaccines abroad and is relying on them for its own mass immunisation campaign. The state-owned company has not reported detailed late-stage test results for scientists to independently analyse.
Dr Farida al-Hosani, an Emirati health spokeswoman, said: “As part of the state’s proactive strategy to provide maximum protection for society, the door has been opened for the public to receive an additional supportive dose of Sinopharm vaccine for people who have received the vaccine previously and who have completed more than six months on the second dose.”
The UAE initially said the vaccine was 86% effective in the first public release of information on the shot’s efficacy. But in the time since, it has offered no study data to support its figures.
The capital of Abu Dhabi extensively used Sinopharm, while the neighbouring emirate of Dubai began offering Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-Astrazeneca. In recent weeks, Abu Dhabi also began to offer the Pfizer shot as well.
The World Health Organisation recently gave the shot emergency approval, potentially paving the way for millions of the doses to reach needy countries through a UN-backed programme rolling out coronavirus vaccines.
The UAE boasts it is among the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns per capita. The country had heavily relied on the Sinopharm shot to vaccinate its vast foreign labour force.