SEC­OND WAVE OF COVID HAS HIT MID­DLE EAST, EX­PERT SAYS

▶ Prom­i­nent Saudi doc­tor’s cau­tion as Noura Al Kaabi joins other se­nior of­fi­cials in re­ceiv­ing vac­cine

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN DEN­NEHY

A prom­i­nent Saudi doc­tor said the sec­ond wave of Covid 19 hit the Mid­dle East early this month.

Speak­ing at the UAE In­fec­tious Dis­eases Week con­fer­ence in Dubai, Dr Ziad Mem­ish, the king­dom’s former deputy min­is­ter of pub­lic health, said the virus was mu­tat­ing in al­most ev­ery coun­try.

The con­fer­ence also heard that peo­ple op­posed to vac­cines and those protest­ing against masks pose a grave risk to suc­cess­fully de­feat­ing the pan­demic.

“There needs to be at least 60 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion who are im­mune to Covid-19 be­fore we can say it’s no longer a pan­demic,” said Prof Eskild Petersen from Aarhus Univer­sity in Den­mark.

“That won’t hap­pen if half the pop­u­la­tion is re­fus­ing to take the vac­cine.

“All sci­en­tific ev­i­dence shows without any doubt that the ben­e­fits of vac­cines far out­weigh the dis­ad­van­tages,” he said.

“The anti-vac­cine cam­paign­ers talk to emo­tion and are im­mune to facts proven by sci­en­tific stud­ies and have a deep mis­trust of au­thor­i­ties.”

The com­ments were made as Min­is­ter of Cul­ture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi be­came the lat­est se­nior of­fi­cial in the UAE to have a coro­n­avirus vac­cine.

She re­ceived the jab yes­ter­day and praised the nurse who ad­min­is­tered it.

“Thank you Nurse Ozma, from La­hore!” Ms Al Kaabi said.

“She [has] been work­ing in the UAE for the past 18 years.”

Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Co-op­er­a­tion Sheikh Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed and Min­is­ter of Health and Pre­ven­tion Ab­dul­rah­man Al Owais have also re­ceived the jab. De­vel­oped by Chi­nese com­pany Sinopharm, the coro­n­avirus vac­cine was ap­proved for emer­gency use in the UAE last month af­ter ex­ten­sive tests found it to be safe and ef­fec­tive.

Sheikh Khalid bin Mo­hammed, chair­man of Abu Dhabi Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice, and Obaid Al Shamsi, direc­tor gen­eral of the Na­tional Emer­gency, Cri­sis and Dis­as­ters Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity, have also been in­oc­u­lated.

A resur­gence in Covid-19 is tak­ing place across the world, and coun­tries from Ger­many to Oman are reim­pos­ing re­stric­tions.

The UAE re­ported 1,538 new cases of coro­n­avirus yes­ter­day af­ter con­duct­ing 130,567 more tests. It was the largest daily in­crease and raised the coun­try’s to­tal to 114,387. Four pa­tients died, tak­ing the death toll to 459.

The UAE has been ex­pand­ing screen­ing, with more than 11.5 mil­lion tests con­ducted since the out­break be­gan. It is among the top coun­tries in terms of tests per capita.

Au­thor­i­ties have also clamped down on those flout­ing Covid-19 safety rules. Shar­jah Po­lice recorded 21,000 breaches of re­stric­tions at work­ers’ ac­com­mo­da­tion in the emi­rate from May 20 to Oc­to­ber 1.

Fail­ing to wear a mask and not ad­her­ing to so­cial dis­tanc­ing were among the ma­jor in­fringe­ments.

A sec­ond wave of Covid-19 in­fec­tions be­gan in the Mid­dle East early this month, a prom­i­nent Saudi doc­tor said.

“We do know the Covid- 19 virus is mu­tat­ing in al­most ev­ery coun­try, in­clud­ing in the Mid­dle East,” said Dr Ziad Mem­ish, the king­dom’s former deputy min­is­ter of pub­lic health.

“The sec­ond wave is very real and we are see­ing it in all six World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion re­gions.

“In the East­ern Mediter­ranean re­gion, the sec­ond wave has started in some coun­tries and the high­est af­fected in the last few weeks are Iran, Iraq, Morocco and Jor­dan.”

In the first two weeks of the month, cases jumped 23 per cent in Morocco and 46 per cent in Libya, he said.

Dr Mem­ish made his re­marks on Fri­day at the UAE In­fec­tious Dis­eases Week con­fer­ence hosted in Dubai. The same day, the UAE re­ported its tenth con­sec­u­tive day of more than 1,000 new cases.

“The vac­cine is the way for­ward,” Dr Mem­ish said.

“What­ever vac­cine comes up, we will have to give booster doses ev­ery year or two years.”

He also said there were risks in­volved with rush­ing vac­cine de­vel­op­ment.

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, the process of pro­duc­ing a vac­cine can take up to 15 years.

Vac­cine de­vel­op­ment be­gins with pre­clin­i­cal stud­ies, which are fol­lowed by three phases that re­quire ap­proval from the reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties and de­tailed safety as­sess­ments.

With Covid-19, this process could be shrunk into less than a year, he said.

“Over the last nine months, we have seen a lot of vac­cines that have been de­vel­op­ing ex­pe­dited,” said Dr Mem­ish, who is direc­tor of re­search and in­no­va­tion at King Saud Med­i­cal City in Saudi Ara­bia.

“We have 10 of these vac­cines in late clin­i­cal tri­als.

“We do not know how many of these 10 vac­cines will ac­tu­ally make it to the mar­ket.”

There have also been some set­backs.

The Univer­sity of Ox­ford and Bri­tish phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany As­traZeneca halted clin­i­cal tri­als glob­ally af­ter a vol­un­teer in the UK fell ill, al­though work restarted ev­ery­where ex­cept the US.

US phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany John­son & John­son also tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended its Phase-3 Covid-19 vac­cine trial be­cause of an un­ex­plained ill­ness in a par­tic­i­pant.

“We all know that the con­cerns with de­vel­op­ing vac­cines are un­known side ef­fects,” Dr Mem­ish said.

“We re­quire 20 mil­lion doses to be ad­min­is­tered to know the ab­so­lute safety of the vac­cine.

“Cur­rently, the stud­ies go­ing on re­cruit be­tween 30,000 and 60,000 in­di­vid­u­als, which gives some idea of short-term safety but does not give you in­for­ma­tion on long-term safety.”

In­sta­gram

Min­is­ter of Cul­ture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi re­ceives the Covid-19 vac­cine yes­ter­day. The vac­cine was de­vel­oped by Sinopharm and is un­der­go­ing Phase-3 tri­als in the UAE

In­fec­tious-dis­ease spe­cial­ist Dr Ziad Mem­ish

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