The United Arab Emirates became the first country to complete a phase III trial for a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine. The Middle Eastern country reported that the vaccine, produced by China National Pharmaceutical Group, or Sinopharm, was 86% effective in a phase III trial.

The vaccine has now been “officially registered”, the UAE state news agency reports. A statement from the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) asserted that the “analysis shows no serious safety concerns”.

See also: Sinovac Acquires USD 515 Million to Accelerate COVID-19 Vaccine Production

Why it matters: As more and more vaccines are being granted approval for emergency use around the world, Sinopharm’s vaccine could be next on the list. However, the vaccine has not yet received public use approval from any drug regulators. 

• MOHAP designated the vaccine for Emergency Use Authorisation in September to protect frontline workers who were at high-risk for COVID-19.

• The statement also reported that the vaccine was 99% effective in neutralising antibodies and 100% in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease.

• As of this moment, neither Sinopharm nor the UAE have released additional details regarding the trial, which included 31,000 volunteers in the UAE from a total of 125 different nationalities. 

• Experts have expressed concern at the lack of additional information and some have also questioned why Sinopharm has yet to release an official announcement of the trial results.

• Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have already been administered Sinopharm’s vaccine after it was given emergency authorisation, according to Bloomberg

• Although the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine displayed better results with both reporting over 90% efficacy, Sinopharm’s vaccine could be preferred by developing countries who would favor its ability to be transported and stored at normal refrigerated temperatures, as opposed to the other two vaccines which require deep-freeze facilities and trucks. 

• Sinopharm is currently conducting phase III trials with several other countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Peru, and Argentina, according to The Financial Times.

See also: Japan Announces USD 707 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package Amid Declining Cabinet Support

Other COVID-19 vaccines: The United Kingdom began emergency mass vaccinations on Tuesday, with 90-year-old former jewellery shop assistant, Margaret Keenan becoming the first person in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 

• The UK is administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which completed its phase III trials about three weeks ago. 

• Priority was given to nurses, doctors, and nursing home workers, as well as people aged 80 and over. The country currently has enough doses now for only 400,000 people, a fraction of its population of 67 million.

• However, the UK’s medicine regulator warned people with significant allergies not to get the vaccine, after two people suffered adverse reactions. They are “recovering well,” according to National Health Service director ,Stephen Powis. 

See also: JD Health Raises USD 3.5 Billion in Asia’s Largest Health-Care IPO So Far

Looking ahead: Canada became the third country in the world to authorise the usage of Pfizer’s vaccine, after the UK and Bahrain. 

• Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Parliament that 30,000 vaccines would arrive next week, with many more “on the horizon”. 

• General inoculations for all Canadians will begin in April of next year, but priority populations – adults over 70 years of age, healthcare workers, adults in indigenous communities, and senior home residents and workers – will be vaccinated first, according to a government vaccination plan that was released on Wednesday. 

• Additionally, China has tested more than 250,000 people after a small number of new cases appeared in the southern city of Chengdu. 

• After an elderly couple was infected on Monday, local authorities have been tracing their close contacts. Health officials said the virus was detected on food stored in their fridge and on their chopping board, according to CNA

See also: Ahead of FDA Approval, Pfizer Sends First Shipment of COVID-19 Vaccines