COVID-19 has afflicted over 67 million people and claimed at least 1.5 million lives. These are scary numbers and while the worst may be behind us, it will be a while before we return to normal.
The GCC is to begin mass inoculations and Bahrain has already granted Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech emergency-use authorization for the coronavirus vaccine shots.
BioNTech, which owns the vaccine, said it has so far signed deals to supply 570 million doses worldwide in 2021, with options to deliver 600 million more. It hopes to supply at least 1.3 billion in 2021.
First shots: Bahrain
Bahrain is now the 2nd nation to grant Pfizer mRNA vaccine shot emergency use as per state-run Bahrain News Agency, following an earlier announcement by the UK on Wednesday, making Britain the first in the world.
The Pfizer shots contain a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.
“We have developed detailed logistical plans and tools to support effective vaccine transport, storage, and continuous temperature monitoring,” Pfizer said. “Our distribution is built on a flexible just in time system which will ship the frozen vials to the point of vaccination.”
The vaccine must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius.
The vaccine requires 2 doses to be given 3 weeks apart.
Bahrain had already granted emergency-use authorization for a Chinese vaccine made by Sinopharm and has inoculated some 6,000 people with it. The Bahraini government says it has conducted over 2 million coronavirus tests across the island.
Abu Dhabi has started a volunteer program for Phase 3 clinical trials of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V.
The oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates is initially seeking 500 volunteers, according to the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office.
Developers of the vaccine have said that initial testing showed it was 91.4% effective in preventing infections, although final results haven’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Sputnik V will cost less than $20 in international markets for a two-shot course of treatment, making it cheaper than those produced by Pfizer and Moderna Inc., according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
Though China has five vaccines in Phase 3 clinical trials, Beijing has been tight-lipped whether any of them are safe and effective.
China is planning to approve 600 million doses for sale by the end of this year.
The first batch of the coronavirus vaccine is set to arrive in the Kingdom and will be available for distribution in weeks.
The vaccines are set to arrive in special distribution fridges designed to keep the vaccines at -80 C using dry ice (a requirement for the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine).
The vaccine can be delivered in full efficacy through the Saudi Arabian Logistics (SAL) center at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport.
Saudi Arabia said that the first batch would be given to priority groups and to those who had not been infected by the coronavirus.
The country has signed agreements with a number of countries to provide vaccines, including one with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to produce the first vaccine for coronavirus as well as one with a German firm to distribute the vaccine.
On 24 November, Kuwait’s Ministry of Health said the BNT162 COVID-19 vaccine will reach the country by the end of this year, and usage will be subject to approval from local regulatory authorities.
Assistant undersecretary for medicines and medical supplies, Abdullah al-Bader, said an agreement had been reached with Pfizer and BioNTech to supply the vaccine to Kuwait.
The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to arrive in Qatar within a few weeks, Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of the Vaccination Unit, Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control Department at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), told local Arabic daily Arrayah.
As reported earlier, Qatar has signed agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to procure the COVID-19 vaccine.