WHO Inches Closer to Approval of Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac Vaccines
A shipment of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine reaches Peru

The World Health Organization (WHO) appears to be inching towards the approval of the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines as it struggles to fill a looming vaccine vacuum left by India’s Serum Institute – which has halted exports as the country continues to reel from a tragic coronavirus outbreak. 

Meanwhile, the WHO declared the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be over, just three months after the first case was reported in North Kivu.

Chinese Sinopharm & Sinovac May be Approved By End of Week

Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines

The Chinese vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac could be approved by the end of this week, noted the WHO Assistant Director-General for Drug Access, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals Mariangela Simao, speaking at a WHO press conference on Monday.

“We are finalizing the assessment of Sinopharm [but] there’s still some documentation that needs to be added,” she said. “We will start the final assessment for the listing of Sinovac on the fifth [of May], so we expect both the Chinese vaccines [to] be finalized by the end of this week.”

If both vaccines receive the WHO’s green light, China could could become the world’s largest vaccine supplier, assuming that Sinovac and Sinopharm will honor their commitment to produce two billion vaccine doses this year.

Despite the lack of published data for the two vaccines, as well as their hefty price, both seem to have met the WHO’s minimum efficacy requirement of 50%, the WHO’s chairperson of Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) said late last month.

With regards to the WHO’s approval of another vaccine frontrunner that seems to be significantly more potent and cheaper than its Chinese counterparts, Russia’s Sputnik V, the WHO expects a final decision by June or even July, said Simao. 

“WHO still does not have the entire dossier [for Sputnik], it’s not complete yet,” she said, noting that the WHO is in the process of assessing good clinical practices for Sputnik V and is set to begin evaluating manufacturing practices next Monday until early June. 

“We expect that as soon as we have the entire dossier, plus the compliance to both good manufacturing practices and the good clinical practice, the vaccine can be assessed then by the technical expert group [SAGE] and we expect that this is likely to happen [by the] end of June or probably in July.”

Ebola Outbreak in DRC Declared Over by WHO

Meanwhile, the WHO’s Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, hailed the DRC’s milestone in bringing an end to the twelfth Ebola outbreak in the country – a deadly disease that kills about half of the people it infects. 

“Earlier today, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, announced the end of the most recent Ebola outbreak three months after the first case was reported in North Kivu,” said Dr. Tedros on Monday, emphasizing that a comprehensive public health approach was crucial in ending the latest outbreak of Ebola.

“Huge credit must be given to the local health workers and the national authorities for their prompt response, tenacity, experience and hard work that brought this outbreak under control,” added Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. She was referring to the country’s swift move to vaccinate almost 2,000 people at high-risk of contracting the virus and providing treatment as soon as the outbreak was declared in February.

However, she stressed that going forward, strong surveillance systems will be crucial to swiftly detect potential flare-ups and to fight parallel epidemics of measles, cholera and COVID-19.

“Although the outbreak has ended, we must stay alert for possible resurgence and at the same time use the growing expertise on emergency response to address other health threats the country faces.”

Image Credits: Sinopharm, Peruvian Ministry of External Affairs.

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