The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an emergency authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine produced by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm. This is the first vaccine developed by an eastern country to receive WHO support.
Millions of people in China and other countries have already received this vaccine. Previously, WHO only approved vaccines made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. But individual health regulators in different countries, especially in Africa, Latin America and Asia, have already approved Chinese vaccines for emergency use.
Since little data was published internationally early on, the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines has long remained uncertain. But on Friday, WHO said it had confirmed the “safety, efficacy and quality” of the Beijing Biological Product Institute’s Sinopharm vaccine.
The WHO said approval of the vaccine has “the potential to quickly accelerate access to the COVID-19 vaccine for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk.” WHO recommends that the vaccine be given in two doses for people 18 years of age and older.
The WHO endorsement is a directive for national regulatory authorities to validate the safety and efficacy of a vaccine. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this would give countries “confidence that they can expedite the approval process for their regulations.”
It also means the vaccine can be used in the global COVAX program, which was created last year to ensure equitable access to vaccines among rich and poor countries. The decision to list the Chinese vaccine for emergency use is expected to give a significant boost to this program, which is experiencing supply problems.