The World Health Organization has approved the emergency use of one of Sinopharm’s Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines, significantly boosting the product’s credibility.
The long-awaited decision taken by a WHO technical advisory group on Friday would also see the Chinese vaccine included in the Covax program for developing countries in the coming weeks, and distributed through UN agencies, potentially benefiting to millions of people in need around the world.
“This afternoon, WHO gave an emergency use list for Sinopharm Beijing’s Covid-19 vaccine,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“This expands the list of Covid-19 vaccines that Covax can purchase and gives countries the confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval and to import and administer a vaccine.” The Covax program aims to provide equitable access to doses around the world and especially in low-income countries.
WHO later said in a statement: “Based on all available evidence, WHO recommends the vaccine for adults 18 years of age and older, on a two-dose schedule with three to four week intervals. . The efficacy of the vaccine against symptomatic and hospitalized diseases has been estimated at 79%, all age groups combined. “
WHO has admitted that few older adults (over 60 years) were recruited into clinical trials, so efficacy could not be estimated in this age group. Still, the organization does not recommend an upper age limit for the vaccine “because preliminary data and supporting data on immunogenicity suggest the vaccine is likely to have a protective effect in the elderly,” he said. he declared.
WHO has already granted an emergency use list for vaccines manufactured by Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine currently in production at sites in India and South Korea.
Chinese state-owned Sinopharm has so far produced two vaccines – one developed in Beijing, the other made in Wuhan, the city where Covid-19 was first reported last year.
Today’s approval is for Beijing’s vaccine. A decision on a separate Chinese vaccine, Sinovac, is expected next week, the WHO said.
Critics of the Chinese-made vaccine wondered for months about what they saw as a lack of public trial data.
Sinopharm said in March that at least 100 million doses of its two vaccines have been delivered worldwide, while more than 80 million doses of both vaccines have been administered.
Experts said today’s decision by the world’s largest public health authority could be a game-changer, especially for developing countries.
“If there is a green light, these vaccines could boost the slim flow of supplies that has been channeled by Covax to date,” Suerie Moon, co-director of the global health program at the University Institute of Geneva, told the Associated Press news agency.
Covax – which has pledged to procure two billion doses of jabs by the end of the year – has so far distributed more than 54 million doses. It faces limited supplies from Western countries and India, where Covid cases continue to rise.