In a big relief for China, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday finally approved the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use — the first Chinese jab to receive the WHO’s green light.
The move could help Beijing step up its vaccine diplomacy amid the surge in coronavirus vaccines in several countries.
China has approved about five of its Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use and especially using Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines for both at home and abroad.
The UN health agency signed off on the two-dose vaccine, which is already being deployed in dozens of countries around the world.
China was eagerly awaiting the global health body’s nod for it to aggressively push the vaccine among different countries.
“This afternoon, WHO gave emergency use listing to Sinopharm Beijing’s Covid-19 vaccine, making it the sixth vaccine to receive WHO validation for safety, efficacy and quality,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.
“The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation, or SAGE, has also reviewed the available data, and recommends the vaccine for adults 18 years and older, with a two-dose schedule.”
The Sinopharm vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (CNBG).
The two-jab vaccine is an inactivated vaccine called SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell). Its easy storage requirements make it highly suitable for low-resource settings, the WHO press release said.
An emergency use listing by the WHO paves the way for countries worldwide to quickly approve and import a vaccine for distribution, especially those states without an international-standard regulator of their own.
It also opens the door for the jabs to enter the Covax global vaccine-sharing scheme, which aims to provide equitable access to doses around the world and particularly in poorer countries.
The Sinopharm vaccine is already in use in 42 territories around the world, fourth behind AstraZeneca (166), Pfizer-BioNTech (94) and Moderna (46), according to an AFP tally.
Besides China, it is being used in Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Hungary, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia and Seychelles, among others.
A clutch of other vaccines are on the road towards WHO emergency use listing, including a second Sinopharm product being made in Wuhan — the city where coronavirus was first detected.
A decision is expected within days on Sinovac, a second Chinese-made vaccine already being used in 22 countries.
The WHO has already given emergency use listing to the vaccines being made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and the AstraZeneca jab being produced at separate sites in India and in South Korea.
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is the next furthest ahead in the process.
Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint.
our App Now!!