The World Health Organization on Friday gave its authorization for emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinopharm, potentially paving the way for millions of the doses to reach needy countries through a U.N.-backed program rolling out coronavirus vaccines.
The decision by a WHO technical advisory group opens the possibility that the Sinopharm vaccine could be included into the U.N.-backed COVAX program in coming weeks or months, and distributed through UNICEF and WHO’s regional office in the Americas.
Sinopharm has released very little data publicly, aside from efficacy numbers for its two vaccine shots — one developed by its Beijing Institute of Biological Products and the other by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.
The Beijing shot is one that was considered by WHO for the emergency use listing.
“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,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhahom Ghebreysus said. “This expands the list of vaccines that COVAX can buy and gives countries confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval and to import and administer a vaccine.”
A separate group advising the U.N. agency on vaccines said it was “very confident” the Sinopharm vaccine protects people ages 18-59. The group said it had a “low level of confidence” of the vaccine’s efficacy in people 60 and over. Its members said they had “very low confidence” in the available data about serious side effects in that age group.