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Science

Bahrain Approves Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine for Use

December 13, 2020

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahrain said Sunday it approved the use of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine, following its earlier approval of a vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Separately, Kuwait has granted emergency use for the Pfizer vaccine.

Bahrain's state-run news agency said the Sinopharm vaccine would be available in the island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf. 

It offered few details though on study results of the vaccine, in line with the United Arab Emirates, which last week announced the vaccine was 86% effective. The Emirati statement provided few details but marked the first public release of information on the efficacy of the shot.

Bahrain said over 7,700 signed up to take part in a trial of the Sinopharm vaccine in the kingdom. The kingdom earlier said it plans to give the public free coronavirus vaccines, but has yet to answer any questions about its program.

The Sinopharm vaccine has been approved for emergency use in a few countries and the company is still conducting late-stage clinical trials in 10 countries. Morocco is gearing up for an ambitious COVID-19 vaccination program, aiming to vaccinate 80% of its adults in an operation starting this month that's relying initially on the Sinopharm vaccine.

Sinopharm's shot relies on a tested technology, using a killed virus to deliver the vaccine, similar to how polio immunizations are made. Leading Western competitors, like the shot made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, use newer, less-proven technology to target the coronavirus' spike protein using RNA. The United Kingdom already has begun vaccinating people with the Pfizer shot and the U.S. appears poised to shortly follow.

Already, Pfizer reports its shot as being 95% effective, while another RNA candidate from Moderna appears to be 94.5% effective. Results suggest a third vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca is safe and about 70% effective, but questions remain about how well it may help protect those over 55. 

On Sunday, Kuwait's state-run KUNA news agency announced the oil-rich country's Health Ministry had granted emergency use for the Pfizer vaccine. Already, the ministry had offered citizens the option to pre-register to receive the vaccine on its website. 

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