On Friday evening, the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has received approval from the WHO. According to BBC News, ‘the World Health Organization (WHO) has granted emergency approval for the Covid vaccine made by Chinese company Sinopharm. It is the first vaccine developed by a non-Western country to get WHO backing… The vaccine has already been given to millions of people in China and elsewhere’.
These include countries such as Turkey and Indonesia, which are already in the process of rolling out the other Chinese vaccine, the Sinovac vaccine. ‘The WHO had previously only approved the vaccines made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. But individual health regulators in various countries – especially poorer ones in Africa, Latin America and Asia – have approved Chinese jabs for emergency use.
With little data released internationally early on, the effectiveness of the various Chinese vaccines has long been uncertain. But the WHO on Friday said it had validated the ‘safety, efficacy and quality’ of the Sinopharm jab. The WHO said the addition of the vaccine had ‘the potential to rapidly accelerate Covid-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk’. It is recommending that the vaccine be administered in two doses to those aged 18 and over.
A decision is expected within days on another Chinese vaccine developed by Sinovac, while Russia’s Sputnik vaccine is under assessment’. Meanwhile, the EMA is also currently in the process of assessing the Chinese Sinovac vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik vaccine. According to the director-general of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, it will give countries ‘confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval’.
It also means that the vaccine can be used in the global Covax programme, which aims to provide about two billion vaccines to developing countries. The decision to list the Chinese vaccine for emergency use is expected to give a substantial boost to the scheme, which has been hit by supply problems and only been able to deliver about 50 million doses so far. Prior to the WHO approval, the Sinopharm vaccine was already being widely used, with an estimated 65 million doses being administered, according to reports.
In addition to China, countries using the vaccine include the UAE, Pakistan and Hungary. The decision to approve the vaccine for emergency use was made by the WHO’s technical advisory group, which received its latest clinical data and manufacturing practices’. ‘Developed in a more traditional way, they are so-called inactivated vaccines, which means they use killed viral particles to expose the immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response’.
This decision by the WHO to grant approval of the emergency use of China’s Sinopharm vaccine is welcome news, which gives developing and poorer countries, greater access to this vaccine, under the Covax programme. Once again, it is another vaccine, which helps the fight against the spread of Covid-19, particularly amongst the elderly and the medically vulnerable in poorer regions, which suffer from a lack of access to clean water, sanitation, etc.
As stated, it is also the first non-Western vaccine to be given approval, which is a landmark moment. However, despite this approval of the Sinopharm vaccine by the WHO through emergency use, evidence has shown that many countries are already administering the Sinopharm vaccine, particularly in the poorer developing regions, which has helped them, vaccinate their most vulnerable.
The same is to be said for the Sinovac vaccine which is currently being administered in many countries as well as poorer regions. Another decision is to be made in the coming days by the WHO, also, on the approval of China’s other vaccine, the Sinovac vaccine, which is also been assessed by the EMA.
It will be worth paying close attention to the imminent decision by the WHO on both China’s Sinovac vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, as these decisions may likely have an impact on the possible decisions of the EMA, to grant approval of both of these vaccines for EU member states.
I can see no reason why both China’s Sinovac vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik vaccine will not be approved by both the WHO and the EMA. They are likely to get imminent approval from the WHO, but it may take longer for approval to be granted by the EMA. Let’s hope that these vaccines get approved as quickly as possible.