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Expert: Chinese Vaccines to Play Significant Role in Bolstering Global Fight Against COVID-19

Samples of a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sinopharm subsidiary CNBG are displayed near a 3D model of a coronavirus during a trade fair in Beijing on Sept. 6, 2020.
Samples of a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sinopharm subsidiary CNBG are displayed near a 3D model of a coronavirus during a trade fair in Beijing on Sept. 6, 2020.

China's Sinopharm is poised to play an increasingly greater role in bolstering global fight against COVID-19 with vaccines assistance worldwide, particularly among the developing countries, following the approval for use by the World Health Organization (WHO), said Shao Yiming, a researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on Friday.

The WHO validated on Friday the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinopharm for emergency use, making it the sixth vaccine to receive WHO validation on account of its safety, efficacy and quality.

This makes it the first Chinese vaccine that has been officially recognized by the WHO, which also means that the China vaccine can play a greater role in the global fight against the epidemic, Shao said.

Indeed, this vaccine has been proved to be effective with solid data to support this. Just as Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director general for access to health products, pointed out the vaccine's efficacy for symptomatic and hospitalized disease was estimated to be 79 percent, for all age groups combined.

Shao Yiming, also an advisor to the Product Development Vaccine Advisory Committee under the World Health Organization (WHO), noted that the vaccine's efficacy is close to 100 percent in preventing hospitalization, severe illness and death.

In addition, the vaccine has the potential to rapidly accelerate COVID-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk.

A small detail can show the vaccine's convenience for storage and use. The vaccines carry a vial monitor, a small sticker on the vaccine vials that can change its color when the vaccine has been exposed to heat, which can directly tell whether the vaccine can be safely used.

A WHO press release also noted that the Sinopharm vaccine is easy to store, making it highly suitable for low-resource settings.

According to the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), the Sinopharm vaccine is recommended for use in adults 18 years and older in a two-dose schedule with a spacing of three to four weeks.

Though few adults over 60 years were enrolled in clinical trials and efficacy could not be estimated in this age group, the WHO is not recommending an upper age limit for the Sinopharm vaccine, because reviewed data have suggested that the vaccine is likely to have a protective effect in older persons, according to the WHO press release.

Assessment by SAGE has shown that the Sinopharm vaccine had been authorized by 45 countries or jurisdictions for use in adults 18 years or older, where more than 65 million doses had been administered through emergency use programs. No safety concerns have been identified from pre-clinical or repro/tox (reproductive toxicity) studies, while most adverse events were mild to moderate, such as injection pain, headache and fatigue.

The jab is produced by a subsidiary of the Sinopharm's bioscience subsidiary the China National Biotec Group (CNBG).

As the world is racing against time to beat COVID-19, the Sinopharm vaccine offers countries more choices with its accessibility and affordability, helping the world overcome the vaccine divide.

As of Wednesday, more than 1.1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered globally, but over 80 percent of those had been administered in high and upper-middle income countries, while just 0.3 percent in low-income countries, said the WHO.

With the WHO's validation for emergency use, the Sinopharm vaccine, as the first COVID-19 vaccine developed by a non-western country, is expected to accelerate vaccine rollout in many low and middle-income countries through purchase and delivery by the WHO-led COVAX initiative.

COVAX is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

In addition to the Sinopharm's BBIBP-CorV vaccine, the WHO had previously listed the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, the Janssen vaccine and the Moderna vaccine for emergency use.

According to Yu Qingming, chairman of the Sinopharm Group, this year's output of the Sinopharm vaccine is targeted at more than one billion doses, and is expected to reach three billion doses in the future.

The WHO has repeatedly urged some developed countries to stop over-purchasing vaccines or imposing vaccine export restrictions. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has repeatedly criticized some developed countries for hoarding vaccines and striking private deals with vaccine suppliers, as some developing countries are struggling to get access to vaccines.

China has, so far, provided vaccine assistance to more than 80 developing countries, helping them solve their urgent needs and saving many lives. Once on the WHO list of emergency use, the Chinese vaccine can help accelerate the promotion of global vaccine coverage, which is crucial to international cooperation on controlling the pandemic as soon as possible.

Last but not least, the validation of the Sinopharm vaccine by the WHO has also greatly boosted the confidence of developing countries to strengthen their research and development capabilities to seek solutions for major domestic and global health problems.

As the WHO chief noted, "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."

Sinopharm, established in January 2003 and listed on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited in September 2009, is the largest wholesaler and retailer of pharmaceutical, medical devices and healthcare products, and a leading supply-chain service provider in China.

Besides, the Group is also engaged in the production and sale of pharmaceutical products, chemical reagents and laboratory supplies, and actively engaged in the innovation of pharmaceutical, medical services and other health-related industries.

China has decided to provide ten million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the COVAX initiative to meet the urgent needs of developing countries, a concrete step to deliver on the promise to make vaccines a global public good.

This is also an important achievement in the field of epidemic prevention and control. China was the first to have put the pandemic under control, and successfully developed one of the earliest vaccines in the world.

Adhering to the concept of a community with a shared future for health, China has so far provided vaccine assistance selflessly to more than 80 countries and three international organizations, exported vaccines to more than 40 countries, and collaborated with over ten countries in vaccine research and development (R and D) and production.

The validation of the Chinese vaccine, which is the result of high technology content and high R and D investment, has also strengthened the international recognition of the "Made in China" and "R and D in China labels."