UAE, Bahrain make Pfizer/BioNTech shot available to those who got Sinopharm vaccine

UAE, Bahrain make Pfizer/BioNTech shot available to those who got Sinopharm vaccine
Bahrain goes into a two-week semi-lockdown due to high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Bahrain and UAE has made Pfizer/BioNTech shot available to those who got Sinopharm vaccine. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 June 2021

UAE, Bahrain make Pfizer/BioNTech shot available to those who got Sinopharm vaccine

UAE, Bahrain make Pfizer/BioNTech shot available to those who got Sinopharm vaccine
  • The Gulf states initially started inoculating residents and citizens with Sinopharm before later introducing other vaccines
  • Bahrain currently fights its biggest wave of infections and UAE is recording nearly twice as many COVID-19 cases as it was seven months ago

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have made the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine available as a booster shot to those initially immunized with a vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).
The Gulf states, which have vaccinated large portions of their populations, initially started inoculating residents and citizens with the Sinopharm COVID-19 shot before later introducing other vaccines.
Bahrain is currently fighting its biggest wave of infections, while the UAE is recording nearly twice as many COVID-19 cases as it was seven months ago.
In Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, a booster shot is available three months after the second shot had been administered, said a representative of Mubadala Health, part of the state fund.
A different vaccine can be provided as a booster shot but it is at the recipient’s discretion and health professionals do not make recommendations, the representative said.
Abu Dhabi has offered the Sinopharm shot to the general public since December and started using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in April. It has been offering third Sinopharm doses since at least last month after it was discovered the shot had not created enough antibodies for some recipients.
In Bahrain, a government representative similarly said those eligible could receive a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Sinopharm vaccines regardless of which vaccine they had initially taken.
“The government is not recommending which booster shot is chosen,” they said.
Bahrain saw daily infections peak last month at around 3,000. The UAE is currently reporting around 2,000 cases a day, down from a February peak of 3,977 but about twice as many as it was reporting in early December.
There have been concerns about the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine, granted emergency approval by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May, due to limited published clinical data being available.
The Chinese vaccine is 78.1 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19, according to a study published last month in the JAMA medical journal.
However, researchers said the data from the study, conducted in countries including the UAE and Bahrain, was insufficient for the elderly and those with chronic diseases.
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday cited Bahrain’s undersecretary of health Waleed Khalifa Al Manea as saying the Sinopharm vaccine provided a high degree of protection.
However, those in Bahrain who are older than 50, are obese or have chronic illnesses were being urged to take a Pfizer booster shot six months after receiving their second Sinopharm dose, he told the paper.


Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president

Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president
Updated 6 min 24 sec ago

Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president

Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president
  • Parliamentarian Yassin Ayari’s wife said security arrested him for criticizing Tunisian President on Facebook

TUNIS: Tunisian security forces arrested a parliament member at his home on Friday, his wife said, after he criticized President Kais Saied on Facebook and called his seizure of governing powers a coup.
Yassin Ayari, who represents a small party in parliament, has expressed frequent previous criticism of Saied, who on Sunday dismissed the prime minister, froze parliament for a month and said he was taking over executive authority.


Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus

Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus
Updated 30 July 2021

Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus

Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus
  • Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas announced that vaccination for children aged between 12 and 15 starts Monday
  • Over 20 per cent of Cypriot teenagers aged 16-17 have received a vaccine shot

NICOSIA: Cyprus decided Friday to expand its Covid-19 vaccination rollout to cover children aged 12 to 15, as authorities tackle a fourth wave of coronavirus.
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas announced that vaccination for children aged between 12 and 15 would start Monday.
“The vaccination will be voluntary and with the necessary consent of the parents or legal guardians,” he said.
“Already several European Union countries, such as France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, and Greece, vaccinate children aged 12-15 to achieve greater protection of the population,” he told reporters.
Children will be vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).
Over 20 percent of Cypriot teenagers aged 16-17 have received a vaccine shot.
“The only way to stop new aggressive Covid-19 variants is to vaccinate,” said Hadjipantelas.
Cyprus is experiencing a new surge in cases, peaking at 1,152 on 15 July.
The surge is blamed on the more potent Delta variant and a low vaccination rate among the under 30s.
In a bid to contain the spike, the cabinet decided Friday that unvaccinated visitors and tourists staying longer than seven days will need to take a PCR test after a week’s stay.
Currently, there are no restrictions on vaccinated tourists entering the country.
The island has endured three national lockdowns in the past 16 months, and the government is trying to avoid another one to save the economy.
Hospitals have postponed all non-emergency operations as Covid wards reach capacity.
The health ministry said Cyprus has inoculated 73 percent of the eligible population with a first jab, and 64 percent are fully vaccinated.
The target is to reach “herd immunity” of 80 percent by the end of August.
Government-controlled southern Cyprus has registered over 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 416 deaths since the pandemic reached its shores in March 2020.
Wearing face masks and social distancing are compulsory.


Lebanon president ready to answer questions on Beirut blast

Lebanon president ready to answer questions on Beirut blast
Updated 30 July 2021

Lebanon president ready to answer questions on Beirut blast

Lebanon president ready to answer questions on Beirut blast
  • Many Lebanese are angry that nearly a year after the incident, no senior official has yet been held responsible

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun told the country’s public prosecutor on Friday he was ready to give a statement about last year’s port blast in the capital Beirut if needed.
“No one is above the law no matter how high up, and justice can only be achieved through the specialized judicial branches that provide guarantees,” Aoun told prosecutor Ghassan Ouidat during a meeting, according to a statement released by the president’s office.
The Aug. 4 explosion at the port, caused by a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely for years, killed over 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed large swathes of the capital.
A probe into the blast led by judge Tarek Bitar has been hindered over the past month as requests sent to parliament and the government to lift immunity and enable questioning of several top officials were either declined or stalled.
Many Lebanese are angry that nearly a year after the incident, no senior official has yet been held responsible.
Influential parliament speaker Nabih Berri said on Thursday the legislature was ready to lift the immunity of its members to allow for questioning but did not detail when or how this would be done.


Israel’s president gets third COVID-19 shot, urges boosters for over-60s

Israel’s president gets third COVID-19 shot, urges boosters for over-60s
Updated 30 July 2021

Israel’s president gets third COVID-19 shot, urges boosters for over-60s

Israel’s president gets third COVID-19 shot, urges boosters for over-60s
  • Israel was a world leader in the vaccination rollout, and around 57 percent of the 9.3 million population has been double-vaccinated

JERUSALEM: Israeli President Isaac Herzog received a third shot of coronavirus vaccine on Friday, kicking off a campaign to give booster doses to people aged over 60 as part of efforts to slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Herzog, 60, received a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. He said he was proud to launch the booster vaccination initiative “which is so vital to enable normal circumstances of life as much as possible in this very challenging pandemic.”
The president was accompanied by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who urged the importance of booster shots in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and pledged that Israel would share all the information it gleaned from the initiative.
“Israel is a pioneer in going ahead with the third dose for older people of the age of 60 and above. The fight against the COVID pandemic is a global fight. The only way we can defeat COVID is together,” Bennett said.
The booster campaign, with shots administered by health maintenance organizations, will effectively turn Israel into a testing ground for a third dose before approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
On the eve of the booster rollout Bennett said Israel had already given 2,000 immunosuppressed people a third dose with no severe adverse events.
His government hopes that stepped up inoculation efforts will help avoid further costly lockdowns.
Israel was a world leader in the vaccination rollout, and around 57 percent of the 9.3 million population has been double-vaccinated. Many seniors got their first shots in December, January and February as they were regarded as the most vulnerable sector of the population.
But since the emergence of the Delta variant, the health ministry has twice reported a drop in the vaccine’s efficacy against infection and a slight decrease in its protection against severe disease.
Daily new infections have spiked to more than 2,000, up from a handful of cases per day a few months ago and about 160 people are currently hospitalized with severe symptoms.


Two crew killed in attack on Israeli-managed tanker off Oman

Two crew killed in attack on Israeli-managed tanker off Oman
Updated 12 min 55 sec ago

Two crew killed in attack on Israeli-managed tanker off Oman

Two crew killed in attack on Israeli-managed tanker off Oman
  • Zodiac said on its website that the attack in the Arabian Sea on the Mercer Street was still being investigated
  • The UKMTO said the vessel was about 280 km northeast of the Omani port of Duqm when it was attacked

DUBAI: Two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed when a petroleum products tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime came under attack on Thursday off Oman's coast, the company said on Friday.
London-based Zodiac said on its website that the attack in the Arabian Sea on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged Japanese-owned ship, was still being investigated.
Earlier on Friday it had described the incident as suspected piracy but the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides maritime security information, says it was not piracy.
"Details of the incident are still being established and an investigation into the incident is currently underway. We continue to work closely with the UKMTO and other relevant authorities," said Zodiac, which is owned by the wealthy Israeli Ofer family.
It said it was "not aware of harm to any other personnel" than the British and Romanian crew members who were killed.

Israel’s Channel 13 TV quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official blaming Iran for the lethal attack. The official added that a drone was used in the attack.
The UKMTO said the vessel was about 152 nautical miles (280 km) northeast of the Omani port of Duqm when it was attacked. It gave no more details on the type of vessel, any cargo, to whom it belonged or about possible casualties.
Zodiac said the ship was now sailing under the control of its crew and own power to a safe location with a US naval escort.
In an advisory note, UKMTO said it had been informed that regional search and rescue authorities and coalition forces have been tasked to assist the vessel.
According to Refinitiv ship tracking, the Mercer Street, a medium-size tanker, was headed to Fujairah, a bunkering port and oil terminal in the United Arab Emirates, from Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania.
Tensions have risen in the Gulf region since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
Washington has blamed Iran for a number of attacks on shipping in strategic Gulf waters, including on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, in May 2019. Iran distanced itself from those attacks.
In recent months Iran and Israel have traded accusations of attacking each other's vessels.