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
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.”
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