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Explainer: What is the new UAE-approved Sinopharm protein vaccine?

The United Arab Emirates has approved emergency use of Sinopharm’s protein-based COVID-19 vaccine and it will be available to the public as a booster dose starting January 2022, the health ministry said this week.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention approved the recombinant protein-based vaccine this week ahead of a planned roll-out next month.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

What is the vaccine?

The Sinopharm CNBG recombinant protein-based vaccine uses an S protein that surrounds the COVID-19 virus, which helps the body identify the virus and fight it in case of exposure. The technology “will help in the prevention of several variants,” the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) tweeted on Tuesday.

“Sinopharm CNBG recombinant protein-based vaccine, as well as the other inactivated Sinopharm vaccine, are effective in producing antibodies, but the new protein-based vaccine could achieve more widespread protection to ensure higher effectiveness against variants.”

The technology is not new, as it has been used to produce ither vaccines such as the hepatitis B vaccine.

What are the side effects?

NCEMA has said that the effects are similar to other vaccines, including headaches, pain in the vaccinated area, and exhaustion with possible fever.

Who is eligible?

NCEMA said Sinopharm CNBG recombinant protein-based vaccine may be given to people over the age of 18 as a booster shot six months after receiving the Sinopharm vaccine. Individuals allergic to any of the vaccine components are exempted after undergoing evaluations conducted by the medical team. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and those planning pregnancy within the next six months are exempted from the vaccine, but may receive other types of authorized vaccines.

Authorities are urging everyone to get a booster jab, with NCEMA saying: “Booster shots are among the key factors that help protect the health and safety of the community, as they play an effective role in boosting collective immunity.”

When was it approved?

The approval came this week following a UAE-based study that included individuals who were previously vaccinated with two doses of Sinopharm CNBG’s inactivated vaccine, the health ministry said.

How many COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far?

The UAE continues to be a world leader in vaccination rates, with more than 22.5 million does provided so far. Around 91 percent of the population of some 10 million has been fully vaccinated.

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UAE reports 1,796 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths

The UAE announced 1,796 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the official Emirates News Agency reported.

This brings the current total active cases in the UAE to 17,551 and the total number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic to 949,384, according to data from the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA).

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The cases were determined out of 232,943 tests in the last 24 hours.

No deaths from the virus were recorded on Saturday, maintaining the total deaths caused by COVID-19 to 2,317 in the UAE.

At least 1,727 patients recovered in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total COVID-19 recoveries to 929,516.

On June 13, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced it would strictly enforce its mask rules – with penalties for those flouting the protocol – and announced it would tighten its rules on the Al Hosn green pass system amid rising coronavirus cases across the country.

NCEMA said that it has recently “monitored some behaviors that have become a danger to society and public health,” referring to people not adhering to COVID-19 precautionary and preventative measures and how it has “negatively” impacted recovery efforts.

“Negligence and recklessness in following precautionary measures, and failure in the societal role in maintaining public health and acquired immunity, has resulted in a rise in the number of infections and new waves of the virus,” the authority spokesman said in the briefing.

The authority reaffirmed the need to wear masks in closed public spaces, reiterating that it was mandatory and that not adhering to this rule would result in a fine of up to $816 (AED 3,000).

According to the World Health Organization, more than 4.1 million cases were reported globally in the last week.

It added, however, that the worldwide number of deaths remained relatively similar to the week before, at about 8,500, noting that COVID-related deaths increased in three regions: the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Americas.

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Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccines could increase protection as boosters: EMA

Coronavirus vaccines tweaked to include the omicron variant strain can improve protection when used as a booster, the European Medicines Agency and other global health regulators said on Friday.
Following a meeting on Thursday, the EMA said global regulators had agreed on key principles for updating COVID-19 shots to respond to emerging variants.
While the existing coronavirus vaccines continue to provide good protection against hospitalization and death, the group said, vaccine effectiveness has taken a hit as the virus has evolved.
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
As such, an omicron-specific or bivalent booster – meaning a vaccine that includes both the new strain and the original coronavirus strain – could “increase and extend” protection, a statement from the EMA said.
The statement refers specifically to the mRNA vaccines. Both Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc have been testing retooled versions of their vaccines to include the omicron variant.
Vaccines which include other variants, for example the beta variant, might also be considered for use as boosters if clinical trial data demonstrate an adequate level of neutralization against omicron and other variants of concern, the statement said.
It follows guidance from the World Health Organization that omicron-specific boosters could restore protection against emerging strains of the coronavirus.
But it stops short of the position of the regulator in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which said on Thursday that it would seek the inclusion specifically of the newer BA.4 and BA.5 strains of omicron, currently driving a surge in new infections globally, in any new shots for use domestically.
On Tuesday, the head of a WHO advisory committee that has considered the modified shots said the group preferred BA.1-based boosters, arguing that the variant is more distinct and could generate a broader response than the more recently circulating subvariants.
Top US FDA official Peter Marks said in an interview that regulators from other countries were seriously considering using new boosters based on the BA.1 omicron variant that caused the massive surge in cases last winter, because those shots can be available sooner than the BA.4/5 based booster the United States plans to use.
The EMA said it would provide more details in coming days.
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Russia scraps remaining COVID-19 restrictions

Russia said on Friday it was ending all restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19, including the requirement to wear masks, citing a steady decline in deaths from the virus.
However, it did not rule out re-introducing restrictive measures if the situation deteriorates.
Consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said it was “suspending previously introduced restrictions, including the mask regime, a ban on public catering at night, and a number of other measures.”
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
It said the dynamics of the virus were consistent with global trends and 93 percent of confirmed cases were mild or asymptomatic.
Since the start of the pandemic in Russia in April 2020, over 800,000 people have died from coronavirus or causes related to COVID-19, Reuters calculations show, with the country recording over 18 million infections.
Russia was quick to develop and launch its Sputnik V vaccine when the pandemic struck but take-up was slow, with many Russians citing distrust of the authorities and fear of new medical products. About 52 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
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