UAE approves Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

A medical specialist holds a vial of Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow

DUBAI (Reuters) - The UAE health ministry on Thursday approved Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, state media reported, as infection levels hit a record and only weeks after vaccine trials began in the United Arab Emirates.

Daily infections of the novel coronavirus in the UAE reached 3,529 on Thursday, the health ministry said, the highest in the Gulf Arab region, where daily tallies in each of the other five states have fallen below 500.

"Study results have demonstrated the effectiveness of the vaccine in triggering a strong antibody response against the virus, its safety for use, and its compliance with international safety and effectiveness standards," the Emirates' news agency WAM reported.

The UAE did not release data on the findings of its Phase III trials. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is marketing the shot abroad, said trials began in December. Abu Dhabi announced this month the trials had started but did not say when.

"The decision comes as part of the UAE's comprehensive and integrated efforts to ensure increased prevention levels against the virus and to safeguard the health of the country's citizens and residents," WAM said.

The RDIF said 1,000 volunteers in Abu Dhabi had so far received their first dose of the vaccine under the trials.

The vaccine's Russian developers have said the shot has been found to be 91.4% effective in providing protection.

Sputnik V is the third COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in the UAE. A vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) is available to the general public and Dubai is also inoculating residents with the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTec

(Writing by Lisa Barrington and Alexander Cornwell; additional reporting by Alexander Marrow in Moscow; Editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)