The World Health Organization (WHO) approved the Sinopharm two-dose Covid-19 vaccine on Friday. It is the first major regulatory approval the Sinopharm vaccine has received outside of China.
Sinopharm’s is the most traditional style vaccine of all developed so far. The manufacturers cultured SARS-CoV-2 in the lab, deactivated the virus by dousing it in beta-propiolactone, mixed the virus with an adjuvant, and voilà. The hepatitis-A vaccine and most flu vaccines are made this way,
The first results for Sinopharm came from a UAE study, which claimed 86% effectiveness in preventing symptomatic infection and 100% effectiveness in preventing severe infection. Sinopharm later reported its vaccine is 79% effective, following further studies in Morocco and Peru. The vaccine could not be tested in China because there in insufficient exposure to the virus in the general population.
However, like so many things China-related the full data from these studies have not been made publicly available. Thus, as the journal Nature, put it earlier this week, “questions remain.” Scientists hope the data may now become available via the WHO.
China has so far vaccinated 243 million people, mostly using the Sinopharm as well as Sinovac vaccines. It is being used widely in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Hungary also purchased the vaccine from Sinopharm in March, following concerns with the slowness of the EU’s roll-out.
The WHO decision clears the way for the Sinopharm vaccine’s use in the Covax global vaccination campaign, amounting to a major boost for the beleaguered program. Of the 2 billion doses the WHO and the UN hoped to deliver to countries in the Global South in 2021, only 50 million doses have so far come through.
The worsening situation in India is a major cause of failure. India had promised to deliver 1 billion doses of its Covishield vaccine to Covax.
Covax has received just $6bn in donations, $2.5bn of which has come from the US and $1bn from Germany. Australia has donated just $60m, which is at least more than TikTok, which donated $10m.
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