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Updated 16 June 2021
The United Arab Emirates kicked off its mass COVID-19 vaccination program in mid-December with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. By now, it has also approved three more vaccines for emergency use- Pfizer/BioNTech, Sputnik V, and the latest addition to the list, Oxford/AstraZeneca.
Now, taking the next step, the UAE has become the first country in the Gulf to commence manufacturing a coronavirus vaccine with a full production schedule.
In the last week of March, the country proudly announced Hayat Vax – a collaboration between Sinopharm CNBG, a Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical giant, and G42, an Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company.
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About Hayat Vax
Hayat Vax is essentially the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine being manufactured domestically by the UAE. The vaccine has been renamed and given a vernacular moniker to demonstrate its origins on the Emirati turf- ‘Hayat’ means ‘life’ in Arabic.
How does Hayat Vax work?
There are currently three prevalent types of vaccines being developed in regards to COVID-19. In layman’s terms, these are inactivated virus vaccine, weakened virus vaccine, and mRNA vaccine.
Hayat Vax relies on the older but tested technology, which involves taking an inactivated form of the virus to stimulate the body’s immune response.
How effective is Hayat Vax and does it have any side effects?
Having the same make-up as the Sinopharm vaccine, Hayat Vax will probably bear the same results as Sinopharm.
Based on the available data for the Sinopharm vaccine:
- 86% efficiency against COVID-19 infection
- 99% seroconversion rate of neutralizing antibody
- 100% effectiveness in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease.
Dr. Walid Zaher, chief research officer and vaccine project leader of G42 Healthcare said that taking the vaccine will “prevent you completely from having any severe or moderate side effects from Covid-19.”
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has released an official statement stating no serious safety concerns relating to the Sinopharm jabs have been reported.
The Sinopharm vaccine is soon going to be tested on the 3-17 age group in a new immune bridge study by MOHAP. If Sinopharm is deemed safe for children, then Hayat Vax too, by extension, will be available for young Emiratis.
Hayat Vax development
The first indigenous vaccine of the UAE, Hayat Vax is being produced by G42 in association with Ras Al Khaimah-based drug maker, Julphar. Hundred of vials are already rolling off a production line at Julphar’s main plant in RAK.
There are talks of a dedicated plant to be built in the Khalifa Industrial Zone at Abu Dhabi. The facility will start operating with an initial capacity of 2 million doses per month, which will be escalated to 200 million doses per annum across three filling lines and five automated packaging lines after phased development.
This endeavour by the UAE will be a monumental step taken towards becoming self-sufficient in terms of vaccine availability.
Hayat Vax distribution
The health authorities have announced the distribution of the Hayat Vax is underway. However, there have been no confirmed details regarding where and when the first batch of the Hayat Vax will be delivered and administered as of yet. The Hayat vaccine is now in the process of being approved in other countries and is currently awaiting its worldwide accreditation.
We do know that the UAE has announced its intentions of providing active support for the Covax drive in providing affordable doses to the developing world. Through the production and distribution of the Hayat-Vax, the UAE plans on supporting the vaccination drives of low-income countries
Case in point, most of Africa relies on Covax for its supply but does lack the infrastructure to store Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, making Hayat-Vax more suitable for distribution there. Thus Hayat-Vax is a key component of the UAE’s wide-ranging strategy to support inoculation drives both at home and abroad.
Who will get the Hayat Vax and where?
Just like the Sinopharm jabs, Hayat Vax is likely to be prioritized for citizens and residents aged 18 and above, particularly the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases.
The vaccine won’t be available to the following groups until research proves it safe in their case:
• Pregnant women
• Nursing mothers
• People with immunodeficiency diseases
• Woman planning to become pregnant within the near future (3 months from taking the vaccine)
• Children under the age of 16 years
• People with severe allergic reactions to any component in the vaccine.
Once the authorities start distributing the vials, the Hayat Vax doses will become available at several of the vaccination centres, tents, and drive-through vaccination centres set up by the government across the country.
How much will Hayat Vax cost?
The UAE government has made the COVID vaccines free to Emirati citizens and nationals.
The Hayat Vax, too, will likely be available free of charge.