The World Health Organisation on Friday approved the use of the Chinese developed Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use globally, a development which is expected to boost Covid-19 vaccine supply, particularly in Africa.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom said the vaccine becomes the sixth to be listed by the health body after the Pfizer/BioNTech, Astrazeneca, Serum Institute of India, Janssen and Moderna vaccines.
“This afternoon, WHO gave Emergency Use Listing to Sinopharm Beijing’s Covid-19 vaccine, making it the sixth vaccine to receive WHO validation for safety, efficacy and quality. This expands the list of Covid-19 vaccines that Covax can buy, and gives countries confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval, and to import and administer a vaccine,” he said.
Sinopharm is one of the four Covid-19 vaccines already being administered in Zimbabwe since the rollout of the national campaign in February. The approval by the global health body is expected to put to rest negative publicity that has surrounded the Chinese vaccines’ use globally.
The WHO emergency use listing assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, as well as risk management plans and programmatic suitability, such as the cold chain requirements. WHO assistant director-general for access to health products Dr Mariangela Simao said the listing for emergency use would fast-track distribution of the vaccine to countries in need.
“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. We urge the manufacturer to participate in the Covax Facility and contribute to the goal of more equitable vaccine distribution.”
The Sinopharm product is an inactivated vaccine whose storage requirements suit the climatic conditions in most African countries as well as the cold chain supply infrastructures.
WHO’s strategic advisory group of experts on immunisation (SAGE) also completed a review of the vaccine and recommended its use in adults aged 18 years and older, with a two-dose regimen. Sinopharm has an efficacy rate of 79 percent.
The use of the Sinopharm vaccine is expected to boost supply to African countries that have been pushed to the back of the queue in accessing Covid-19 vaccines by developed countries.
According to statistics from the WHO, Africa had received only 11 million or 2 percent of the 548 million doses administered worldwide as at April 6.
Zimbabwe, which is also aiming to procure more vaccines through the Covax facility being coordinated by WHO and the global vaccine alliance on behalf of poorer countries, has so far bought 1,2 million Sinovac doses in addition to the donation of 200 000 Sinopharm vaccines from the Chinese Government and another 75 000 does of the Covaxin from India. So far, about 500 000 Zimbabweans have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine while 129 181 are now fully vaccinated.
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