World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm for emergency use against the Covid-19 pandemic. The listing means Sinopharm joins a growing list of recommended Covid-19 vaccines.
The other vaccines already listed are Pfizer (8 January 2021), Moderna (25 January 2021), AstraZeneca (21 April 2021), and Janssen COVID (17 March 2021).
This listing means Sinopharm which is manufactured by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (CNBG) can be rolled out globally.
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 EUL assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as risk management plans and programmatic suitability, such as cold chain requirements.
In a statement announcing the listing, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Health Products Dr Mariangela Simao urged the manufacturer to participate in the COVAX facility.
“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,” she said.
WHO also highlighted that in the assessment for Sinopharm also included on-site inspections of the production facility.
The Sinopharm product is an inactivated vaccine called SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell). Its easy storage requirements make it highly suitable for low-resource settings. It is the also first vaccine that will carry a vaccine vial monitor, a small sticker on the vaccine vials that change color as the vaccine is exposed to heat, letting health workers know whether the vaccine can be safely used.
Sinopharm is the main vaccine that is being used for the vaccination program in Zimbabwe.
WHO recommends the vaccine for adults 18 years and older, in a two-dose schedule with a spacing of three to four weeks. Vaccine efficacy for symptomatic and hospitalized disease was estimated to be 79%, all age groups combined.
The health board added that few older adults (over 60 years) were enrolled in clinical trials, so efficacy could not be estimated in this age group. Nevertheless, WHO is not recommending an upper age limit for the vaccine because preliminary data and supportive immunogenicity data suggest the vaccine is likely to have a protective effect in older persons.
There is no theoretical reason to believe that the vaccine has a different safety profile in older and younger populations. WHO therefore recommends that countries using the vaccine in older age groups conduct safety and effectiveness monitoring to make the recommendation more robust.