A firm based in the United Arab Emirates will start commercial production of China’s Sinopharm vaccines in April, under a deal announced on Sunday.
Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries PSC, based in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, signed the deal with Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Group 42 (G42), which handled Phase III late-stage clinical trials of a Sinopharm vaccine in the UAE and the wider region.
The announcement is an expansion of Chinese diplomacy in the Gulf region and helps the UAE’s quest to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbon production.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has just completed a two-day official visit to the UAE, saying Beijing wanted to work with the UAE on producing affordable COVID-19 vaccines.
According to a Julphar filing on the Abu Dhabi stock exchange, the manufacturing agreement was made between Julphar and G42 Medications Trading.
G42 has previously said it has distribution and manufacturing agreements with Sinopharm and hopes to provide the UAE and other states in the region with the vaccine. G42 did not immediately respond to a request for more details.
The government of Ras al-Khaimah owns 12.24% of Julphar, according to Refinitiv data.
G42 began Phase III clinical trials of the vaccine developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Product, a unit of Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG), in July.
The UAE approved the vaccine for certain groups in September before making it available to the general public.
It has said the vaccine has 86% efficacy, while the Chinese developer has claimed 79.34% efficacy based on an interim analysis of late-stage trials.
Some people in the UAE failed to develop antibodies after a second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine and were given a third dose, the health ministry said this month. It said the number was “minimal” compared to the number of vaccines administered.