Bahrain second nation to grant Pfizer shot emergency use

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) — The island kingdom of Bahrain said it has become the second nation in the world to grant an emergency-use authorisation for the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency made the announcement on Friday night, following an earlier announcement by the United Kingdom (UK) on Wednesday, making Britain the first in the world.

“The confirmation of approval by the National Health Regulatory Authority of Bahrain followed thorough analysis and review undertaken by the authority of all available data,” the kingdom said.

Bahrain did not say how many vaccines it has purchased, nor when vaccinations would begin. It did not respond to questions from the Associated Press (AP). The Pfizer shots, a so-called “mRNA vaccine”, contain a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognise the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

Pfizer later told the AP that the details of its sales agreement with Bahrain, including the “timing of delivery and the volume of doses”, was confidential and declined to comment.

“We have developed detailed logistical plans and tools to support effective vaccine transport, storage and continuous temperature monitoring,” Pfizer said. “Our distribution is built on a flexible just in time system which will ship the frozen vials to the point of vaccination.”

The immediate challenge for Bahrain would be the conditions in which the vaccine must be kept. It must be stored and shipped at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius. Bahrain is a Mideast nation that regularly sees temperatures in the summer of around 40 degrees Celsius with high humidity.

Bahrain operates a state-owned carrier, Gulf Air, that could be used to transport the vaccine. In the nearby United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Dubai-based long-haul carrier Emirates has already said it is preparing its facilities to distribute vaccines at ultra-
cold temperatures.

The vaccine also requires two doses be given three weeks apart.

A general view of the Pfizer Manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium. PHOTO: AP