Sinopharm, China's COVID-19 vaccine, wins WHO approval for emergency use

The World Health Organization on Friday approved China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use globally.

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The vaccine was found to be 79% effective in all age groups. The global health agency is recommending it in two doses, three to four weeks apart, for adults 18 years and older.

“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. Mariângela Simão, WHO assistant-director general for Access to Health Products, in a statement. 

The Sinopharm shot can be easily stored, and it is the first vaccine that will have a vial monitor, a small sticker on the vaccine container that changes color if the vaccine is exposed to heat and alerts health workers if it is not safe to use.

Some countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia had already approved the vaccine.

The WHO is not recommending an upper age limit for the vaccine, although few adults over 60 years old were enrolled in clinical trials. The agency says there is “no theoretical reason” to believe the vaccine is less safe than for younger populations.

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The WHO inspected the Sinopharm vaccine’s production facilities as part of its evaluation. In the U.S., workers at the Emergent Biosolutions plant in Baltimore mixed vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, destroying 15 million doses of the approved J&J vaccine.

Sinopharm is the fifth vaccine WHO has granted emergency use authorization. The world health body also has approved vaccines by Pfizer, two by AstraZeneca and the J&J version, made by its Janssen subsidiary. 

The vaccine is made by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Company Ltd., a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group. 

WHO is expected to make a decision on another Chinese vaccine developed by Sinovac in the coming days. 

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