The World Health Organization has listed China’s Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for more widespread use of the jab throughout the world.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced Friday that the body had authorized the emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine made by China’s Sinopharm.
It is the first non-Western vaccine to gain WHO emergency use approval.
“This afternoon, WHO gave emergency use listing to sign off on Beijing’s COVID-19 vaccine, making it the sixth vaccine to receive WHO validation for safety, efficacy and quality,” Ghebreysus said.
The emergency use listing means it can be rolled out in countries that rely on the WHO’s vaccine recommendations rather than having their own full regulatory approval process. It also opens up the possibility that the vaccine could be used by COVAX, the joint effort to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines. However, a deal between Sinopharm and COVAX has yet to be announced.
The EU has not yet begun a rolling review of the Sinopharm vaccine, which uses an inactivated virus that cannot cause disease.
The chair of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Board on Immunization (SAGE), Alejandro Cravioto, said Friday they found that the jab had an efficacy of up to 79 percent to prevent severe disease and hospitalization.
SAGE’s working group on COVID-19 vaccines had previously pointed to low levels of confidence in the Sinopharm vaccine including the quality of evidence on how effective the jab was in adults aged 60 and over. There were also concerns that the vaccine could have serious adverse effects in some people.
Acknowledging this, Cravioto said that while the information on efficacy in older people was “still very scarce,” there was “no reason to think that the vaccine would behave differently in these older age groups.” He said SAGE was encouraging countries distributing the vaccine to ensure they have strong programs in place to report on safety and efficacy, particularly for people over 60, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women.
The result of the WHO’s assessment of China’s Sinovac jab was also expected this week, but the WHO said Friday that it had requested additional information from the manufacturer.
The WHO had already given such approval to vaccines developed by BioNTech-Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.