UN health agency’s Africa director says a pause in the vaccination campaign will lead to ‘lost lives and lost hope’.
The World Health Organization has approved the emergency use of a COVID-19 jab made by Sinovac, paving the way for a second vaccine produced in China to be distributed among developing countries.
The UN health agency gave the green light to the two-shot vaccine on Tuesday as the jab “meets international standards for safety, efficacy and manufacturing”, read a statement.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the move, noting the vaccine’s easy storage requirements make it suitable for low-income countries.
“It’s now crucial to get these lifesaving tools to the people that need them quickly,” he told a briefing.
The WHO’s approval helps countries worldwide to quickly approve and import a vaccine for distribution, especially those states without an international-standard regulator of their own.
The organisation has also given emergency use listing to vaccines being made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and the AstraZeneca jab being produced in India, South Korea and the European Union, which it counts separately.
An independent panel of experts said in a statement it recommended Sinovac’s vaccine for adults above 18, with a second dose two to four weeks later. There was no upper age limit as data suggested it is likely to have a protective effect in older people.
On May 7, the WHO granted emergency approval for Sinopharm, the first vaccine produced in China.
Once added to the WHO emergency listing, a jab can also be included in COVAX – a global platform that aims to guarantee equitable access to vaccines to the world’s poorest countries. Currently, only AstraZeneca and some Pfizer jabs are flowing through the scheme.
“The world desperately needs multiple COVID-19 vaccines to address the huge access inequity across the globe,” said Mariangela Simao, the WHO’s assistant director general, for access to health products.
“We urge manufacturers to participate in the COVAX facility, share their know-how and data and contribute to bringing the pandemic under control.”
The Sinovac jab is already in use in 22 territories around the world, according to an AFP news agency count.
Apart from China, the countries using Sinovac include Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.