A new factory in Abu Dhabi will start manufacturing Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine later this year.
The production will be under a joint venture between the Chinese pharmaceutical giant and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 (G42).
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The venture is an expansion of Chinese diplomacy in the Gulf region and helps the United Arab Emirates’ quest to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbon production.
The new plant, which is being built in the Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), will have a production capacity of 200 million doses a year with three filling lines and five automated packaging lines, a statement from the joint venture said on Monday.
The vaccine will be called Hayat-Vax when manufactured in the UAE but is the same inactivated vaccine from the Beijing Institute of Biological Product (BiBP), a unit of Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG), that the UAE approved for general use in December.
“Hayat-Vax is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be produced in the Arab world,” the statement said.
While the new plant scales up, interim production of the vaccine has already begun in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah by Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries PSC (Julphar).
That interim production line has an initial capacity of two million doses per month and no details were given about how long production will continue there.
Julphar’s share price surged 14.4 percent to 1.4 dirhams ($0.3812), its biggest single-day gain since June.
The UAE, through G42, hosted phase-three clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccine from July, which later expanded to other countries in the region including Bahrain.
The UAE approved the vaccine for front-line workers in September before making it available to the general public in December.
The UAE has said its trials showed the vaccine has 86-percent efficacy, while Sinopharm reports 79.34-percent efficacy based on interim results.
Some people in the UAE failed to develop sufficient antibodies after a second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine and were given a third dose, the UAE health ministry said this month. It said the number was “minimal” compared with the number of vaccines administered.