World Health Organization Approves Chinese COVID19 Vaccine

18 May 2021
Giulio Prisco
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Chinese Vaccine

The World Health Organization (WHO), headquartered in Geneva, has listed the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. This gives the green light for the vaccine to be rolled out globally. WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) follows an evaluation of the quality, safety, and efficacy of the vaccine by WHO and independent health experts.

WHO had previously only approved the COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna. The Sinopharm vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (CNBG).

“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.

The Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine is based on inactivated coronaviruses. This is an approach that has been used for over a century. And it works by teaching the immune system to make antibodies against the coronavirus, explains The New York Times.

In February, we reported that Hungary, the country where I live, became the European Union’s first member to approve China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that he would personally opt to receive the Chinese vaccine, as he trusted it more than others.

The Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine has already been given to hundreds of millions of people in China and elsewhere. BBC News notes that it “is the first vaccine developed by a non-Western country to get WHO backing.”

“We urge the manufacturer to participate in the COVAX Facility and contribute to the goal of more equitable vaccine distribution,” added Simão.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world. WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) is a prerequisite for COVAX Facility vaccine supply. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The WHO evaluation of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine included a risk-benefit assessment based on available data. It also included on-site inspections of the production facility.

Various sources have expressed a certain distrust of Chinese and Russian COVID-19 vaccines due to a perceived lack of transparency in tests and investigative and regulatory processes. But “there seems to be little ground for knee-jerk prejudice about the quality of the vaccine work in those countries,” notes Prospect.

I find the reference to “Western” and “Eastern” vaccines often made by the press and the media quite disturbing. Even more disturbing to me is the widespread use of the COVID-19 pandemic for petty political squabbles. I think public health is too important to be used as an instrument of partisan politics.

On a personal note, I have received the first shot of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, without adverse side effects. And I’m waiting to receive the second shot in a couple of weeks. My wife has received both, again without adverse side effects. We wish to thank the government of Hungary for making the vaccine available.

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