WHO Endorses China's Covid-19 Vaccine Sinopharm--3rd Update
By Drew Hinshaw and Chao Deng
The World Health Organization endorsed a Covid-19 vaccine
developed by the Chinese state-owned firm Sinopharm, clearing the
shot for global use and boosting Beijing's bid to play a leading
role in the fight against the pandemic.
The international health body recommended that the vaccine be
used immediately, as part of an "emergency use listing." It said
the drug's deployment would help quickly ease acute vaccine
shortages in developing countries that have been unable to
inoculate more than a tiny percentage of their populations.
But the authorization came with caveats as the WHO said too
little data exists to show whether the vaccine was effective in
people over 60.
Still, the WHO panel that reviews vaccines -- its Strategic
Advisory Group of Experts -- concluded that preliminary data
suggested elderly test subjects likely did acquire some protection
against the disease. The panel found no reason to believe that the
shot wouldn't be as safe in older age groups as it is in younger
demographics. In all adults, 18 and older, the vaccine was 79%
effective in preventing symptomatic cases of Covid-19.
"The addition of this vaccine has the potential to rapidly
accelerate Covid-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect
health workers and populations at risk," said Dr. Mariangela Simao,
the WHO's assistant director general for access to health
The shot comes as a massive spike in Covid-19 cases in India,
the world's largest vaccine maker, has upended global supply of
badly-needed shots. Export restrictions in India have left the
WHO's Covax program -- to vaccinate 20% of the developing world's
population -- struggling to obtain supplies.
Yet global health experts have criticized the Chinese government
and Chinese vaccine makers, including Sinopharm, for a lack of
transparency about their clinical trials and efficacy data. Because
China has largely been able to get Covid-19 under control,
Sinopharm had to conduct trials abroad, in several different
countries at once. WHO officials said that process was challenging,
leaving them without sufficient data in older groups.
Sinopharm's vaccine appears to be substantially less effective
than the leading Western vaccines against Covid-19. Still,
scientists have argued for its use at a time when the global
Covid-19 case count is still climbing at a rate of hundreds of
thousands per day. Unlike shots from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.,
the Sinopharm vaccine doesn't need to be kept at extremely cold
temperatures, and a small sticker on its vials changes color if the
vaccine has been exposed to excess heat.
The vaccine is the sixth targeting Covid-19 that WHO has granted
an emergency use designation, joining candidates by AstraZeneca
PLC, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. It is the only inactivated
virus vaccine to be authorized. The WHO is currently reviewing a
second Chinese-made vaccine, by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac
Write to Drew Hinshaw at email@example.com and Chao Deng at
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 07, 2021 13:05 ET (17:05 GMT)
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