The World Health Organisation has given emergency use authorisation to a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by China's Sinopharm, potentially paving the way for millions of the doses to reach needy countries through a UN-backed programme.
The decision by a WHO technical advisory group, a first for a Chinese vaccine, opens the possibility that Sinopharm's offering could be included in the UN-backed COVAX programme in coming weeks or months and distributed through UN children's agency UNICEF and WHO's Americas regional office.
Apart from efficacy numbers, the Chinese manufacturer has released very little public data about its two vaccines - one developed by its Beijing Institute of Biological Products and the other by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products. The Sinopharm vaccine will join ones made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India, in receiving the coveted authorization from the UN health agency.
"This expands the list of vaccines that COVAX can buy and gives countries confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval and to import and administer a vaccine," Tedros said at a Geneva news conference.