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Dubai to begin inoculations with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Wednesday

DUBAI (Reuters) -Dubai will start inoculating people with the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech for free from Wednesday, the government said, joining Saudi Arabia which last week became the first Arab country to begin using this vaccine.

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The move comes after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain earlier this month rolled out a vaccine by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) to the general public.

The UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention registered the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for emergency use on the request of Pfizer, state news agency WAM reported, citing the ministry.

The UAE was the first country outside China to roll out the Chinese vaccine to the public, saying earlier this month it had 86% efficacy, citing an interim analysis of late-stage clinical trials.

China has included two candidate vaccines from Sinopharm and one from Sinovac Biotech Ltd in an emergency-use programme launched in July, targeting specific high-infection risk groups such as medical workers and border inspectors.

Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management said on Twitter late Tuesday an “extensive vaccination campaign” against COVID-19 would kick off on Wednesday using Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine.

A message on Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) hotline said the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine would be for citizens and Dubai residents 60 years and above, and for individuals with chronic illness over the age of 18.

The second category would comprise front-line staff in public and private sectors, third would be vital-sector workers, and finally, the general public, WAM cited DHA as saying.

Dubai, the financial hub of the UAE, has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, which hurt its key tourism, real estate and trade sectors.

S&P Global warned earlier this year Dubai’s economy was set to shrink 11% in 2020, almost four times the drop in GDP experienced during the global financial crisis in 2009.

Qatar has also granted emergency use authorisation for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, while Oman will receive its first shipment of the same vaccine on Wednesday.

Qatar started the free vaccination drive on Wednesday, Qatari media reported.

Kuwait received 150,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday and expects to receive about 450,000 doses of it in the first quarter, Ghada Ibrahim, head of public relations at the ministry health, said in a video on Twitter.

UAE has recorded 195,878 coronavirus cases and 642 deaths so far from the virus.

Reporting by Saeed Azhar; additional reporting by Raya Jalabi, Hadeel Al Sayegh and Ahmed Hagagy; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Bernadette Baum

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