Jun 1, 2021 - Health

WHO approves China's Sinovac COVID vaccine for emergency use

Photo of an older man getting the COVID shot in a mall theatre

A healthcare worker administers a dose of Sinovac's vaccine to an elderly man at a mall theatre converted into a vaccination center in San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines. Photo: Ezra Acayan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization said Tuesday it has approved the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use for adults over 18, making it the second Chinese-developed shot given the green light.

Why it matters: The approval will allow Sinovac to join COVAX and distribute its vaccines to developing countries. The global vaccine distribution initiative currently faces "major supply problems" due to restrictions on Indian exports, Reuters reports.

  • The Sinovac vaccine's "easy storage requirements make it very manageable and particularly suitable for low-resource settings," the WHO wrote in a news release.

Details: The WHO said clinical trial results showed the vaccine, called CoronaVac, prevents symptomatic disease in 51% of vaccinated people and prevented severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalization in 100% of the studied sample.

  • A separate WHO panel of experts had previously said Phase III multi-country trial results found that vaccine efficacy ranged from 51% to 84%.
  • Of note: Few older adults (over 60 years) were enrolled in clinical trials, so "efficacy could not be estimated in this age group," the WHO said. But the organization is not recommending an upper age limit for the vaccine because data suggests the vaccine is "likely to have a protective effect in older persons."

What they're saying: "The world desperately needs multiple COVID-19 vaccines to address the huge access inequity across the globe," Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO assistant-director general for access to health products, said in a statement.

  • "We urge manufacturers to participate in the COVAX Facility, share their know how and data and contribute to bringing the pandemic under control."
  • WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the news, tweeting that the vaccine is "safe, effective and quality assured."

The big picture: Sinovac has supplied over 600 million doses at home and abroad as of the end of May, with over 430 million doses administered, per Reuters.

What to watch: A third Chinese vaccine produced by CanSino Biologics has submitted clinical trial data for WHO review.

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