The World Health Organisation has given authorisation for emergency use of a Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by China's Sinopharm, potentially paving the way for millions of doses to reach countries in need through a UN-backed programme.
The decision by a WHO technical advisory group opens the possibility that the Sinopharm vaccine could be included in the UN-backed Covax programme in coming weeks or months, and distributed through Unicef and the WHO's regional office in the Americas.
Sinopharm has released little data publicly, aside from efficacy numbers for its two jabs – one developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and the other by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.
The Beijing vaccine is one that was considered by the 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," director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus 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 UN agency on vaccines said it was “very confident” the Sinopharm vaccine protects people aged 18-59.
But the group said it had a “low level of confidence” in efficacy in people aged 60 and over, and “very low confidence” in the available data about serious side effects in that age group. – AP