The World Health Organization on Tuesday approved Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use for adults 18 and older.
It is the second authorization of its kind that the world body grants to a Chinese company, after Sinopharm.
In a statement Tuesday, the UN health agency said data presented to its experts showed that two doses of the vaccine prevented people from developing COVID-19 symptoms in about half of the people who received the vaccine.
The WHO said there were few older adults enrolled in the research, so it couldn’t estimate how effective the vaccine was in people older than 60.
“However, the WHO does not recommend an upper age limit for the vaccine,” the agency said, adding that data collected on the use of Sinovac in other countries “suggests that the vaccine is likely to have a protective effect on old people”.
In April, a study published by a team of scientists in Brazil confirmed a previously reported efficacy rate of more than 50% for Sinovac. A real-world study in Chile in April found an effectiveness rate of 67%.
The WHO also gave the green light to COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Eyes on developing countries
The WHO authorization means that donors and other UN agencies can purchase the vaccine for use in developing countries, including the UN-backed initiative to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines globally known as COVAX.
“The world desperately needs several COVID-19 vaccines to address the huge inequality of access around the world,” said Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Health Products.
“We urge manufacturers to participate in the COVAX installation, share their knowledge and data, and help control the pandemic.”
The effort has slowed down considerably after its largest supplier in India said it could not provide more vaccines until the end of the year due to a recent spike in infection in the South Asian nation.
To date, there is no confirmed agreement for Sinovac dosing with COVAX.
The EU still awaits the regulator’s decision
In May, Europe’s drug regulator began an expedited review process for the Sinovac vaccine, but it is unclear when a decision could be made on its possible authorization for the 27-nation bloc.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese vaccines have already been delivered to dozens of countries around the world through bilateral agreements.
Many developing nations scrambled to secure supplies after wealthy countries reserved the vast majority of doses from Western pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Although China has five vaccine injections in use, most of its exports abroad come from two companies: Sinopharm and Sinovac. Chinese vaccines are “inactivated” vaccines, made from killed coronavirus.
Most of the other COVID-19 vaccines in use around the world are made with newer technologies that instead target the “spike” protein that coats the surface of the coronavirus.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism