Doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are seen at a restaurant in Kragujevac, Serbia, May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
The global fight against coronavirus just got stronger as the World Health Organization (WHO) has granted emergency approval for the Covid vaccine made by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm.
The WHO on Friday said it had validated the “safety, efficacy and quality” of the Sinopharm jab developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products. It further added that this addition has “the potential to rapidly accelerate Covid-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk”.
Sinopharm is the first vaccine to be developed by a non-Western country to get the green light from WHO. It joins other WHO-approved vaccines including the ones made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna.
The organization said that the vaccine’s efficacy for symptomatic and hospitalized cases of Covid-19 was estimated to be 79%. BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna have an efficacy rate of around 90% or higher, while the AstraZeneca jab is thought to be around 76%.
One of the main advantages of Sinopharm is that it can be stored in a standard refrigerator at 2-8 degrees Celsius, like the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Prior to the approval, an estimated 65 million doses of Sinopharm have already been administered in China and elsewhere as individual health regulators in various countries, including some in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, have approved the Chinese jabs for emergency use. The vaccine is administered in two doses to those aged 18 and over.
WHO’s approval is significant as it indicates that a vaccine is safe and effective. It also means that the vaccine can be used in the global Covax program, which was set up last year to try to ensure fair access to vaccines among rich and poor nations.
The scheme is reportedly struggling with supply problems and this decision of addition of Sinopharm is expected to boost the program.
Another China vaccine developed by Sinovac, along with Russia’s Sputnik, is also under assessment by WHO.