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Bahrain says king has been vaccinated against COVID-19

Monarch apparently the 1st world leader to get the immunization, though Gulf state doesn’t specify which dose he received or publish photo of him receiving it

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa speaks during a meeting with US President Donald Trump, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa speaks during a meeting with US President Donald Trump, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was vaccinated Wednesday against coronavirus, the Gulf kingdom’s official news agency said, apparently making him the first world leader to receive a COVID-19 immunization.

There were no published images of the king being vaccinated and it wasn’t specified which vaccine he was administered.

“God has endowed Bahrain with a society with a high level of awareness and keenness to adhere to all precautionary measures and directives issued by the national medical taskforce to combat the coronavirus, which had a great impact on the Kingdom’s ability to limit its spread within the community,” the king was quoted saying in a statement carried by the Bahrain News Agency.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will be vaccinated on Saturday night, was on track to be the first world leader to be immunized against the coronavirus before the Bahraini monarch’s reported vaccination. US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to receive a vaccine early next week.

On Sunday, Bahrain said it approved the use of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine, following its earlier approval of a vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

The Bahrain News Agency said the Sinopharm vaccine would be available in the island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.

A model of a coronavirus is displayed next to boxes for COVID-19 vaccines at an exhibit by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, September 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

It offered few details though on study results of the vaccine, in line with the United Arab Emirates, which last week announced the vaccine was 86% effective but provided few details. The Emirati statement marked the first public release of information on the efficacy of the shot.

Bahrain said over 7,700 signed up to take part in a trial of the Sinopharm vaccine in the kingdom. The kingdom earlier said it plans to give the public free coronavirus vaccines, but has yet to answer any questions about its program.

The Sinopharm vaccine has been approved for emergency use in a few countries and the company is still conducting late-stage clinical trials in 10 countries. Morocco is gearing up for an ambitious COVID-19 vaccination program, aiming to vaccinate 80% of its adults in an operation starting this month that’s relying initially on the Sinopharm vaccine.

Sinopharm’s shot relies on a tested technology, using a killed virus to deliver the vaccine, similar to how polio immunizations are made. Leading Western competitors, like the shot made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, use newer, less-proven technology to target the coronavirus’ spike protein using RNA.

Already, Pfizer reports its shot as being 95% effective, while another RNA candidate from Moderna appears to be 94.5% effective. US regulators have approved the Pfizer shot and are on track to authorize the Moderna vaccine. Results suggest a third vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca is safe and about 70% effective, but questions remain about how well it may help protect those over 55.

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