WHO approves emergency use of first Chinese COVID-19 vaccine from Sinopharm

The World Health Organization announced on Friday it had approved a Covid-19 vaccine from China’s state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm for emergency use.

The vaccine, one of two main Chinese coronavirus vaccines that have been given to hundreds of millions of people in China and elsewhere, is the first developed by a non-Western country to win WHO backing.

It is also the first time the WHO has given emergency use approval to a Chinese vaccine for any infectious disease. Earlier this week, separate WHO experts had expressed concern about the quality of data the company provided on side effects.

A WHO emergency listing is a signal to national regulators that a product is safe and effective. It also allows it to be included in COVAX, a global programme to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries, which has hit supply problems.

“This expands the list of Covid-19 vaccines that COVAX can buy, and gives countries confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval, and to import and administer a vaccine,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing.

A WHO emergency listing is a signal to national regulators on a product’s safety and efficacy, and would allow the shot to be included in COVAX, the global programme to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries.

The WHO has previously given emergency approval to Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and, last week, Moderna.