World Health Organization, WHO, over the weekend approved for emergency use a COVID-19 vaccine from China’s state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm.
The move by Who is bolstering Beijing’s push for a bigger role in inoculating the world as the vaccine, one of two main Chinese coronavirus vaccines that have been given to hundreds of millions of people in China and elsewhere, is the first developed by a non-Western country to win WHO backing.
It is also the first time the WHO has given emergency use approval to a Chinese vaccine for any infectious disease.
A WHO emergency listing is a signal to national regulators that a product is safe and effective. It also allows it to be included in COVAX, a global programme to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries, which has hit supply problems.
“This expands the list of COVID-19 vaccines that COVAX can buy, and gives countries confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval, and to import and administer a vaccine,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Senior WHO adviser Bruce Aylward said it would be up to Sinopharm to say how many doses of its vaccine it can provide to the programme, but added: “They are looking at trying to provide substantial support, make substantial doses available while at the same time of course trying to serve China’s population.”
The decision to approve Sinopharm’s vaccine was taken by WHO’s technical advisory group, which met since April 26 to review the latest clinical data and manufacturing practices.
Emergency approval to COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and, last week, Moderna had been given by WHO.