Global health body also issues guidelines for identifying coronavirus variants using letters of the Greek alphabet
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday granted emergency-use approval to SinoVac, making it the second Chinese vaccine against COVID-19 to be validated by the global body.
The emergency listing signals to national regulators that the vaccine is safe and effective in protecting against the coronavirus. It also allows the vaccine to be utilized by the COVAX regime, the global program aimed at ensuring middle- and low-income countries are able to secure vaccines for their citizenry without having to pay large sums for independent procurement.
Produced by Beijing-based pharmaceutical company SinoVac, the vaccine has been recommended for use in adults over 18, with the interval between doses fixed at 2-4 weeks. SinoVac says it has supplied over 600 million doses of its vaccine at home in China, and abroad, as of May, adding that over 430 million doses have been administered. The vaccine is currently being utilized in Pakistan following shortages of the Sinopharm vaccine, which had earlier been the inoculation being administered to the majority of the population.
Vaccine efficacy results showed that it prevents symptomatic disease in 51 percent of those vaccinated, and prevents severe COVID-19 and hospitalization in 100 percent, according to WHO. “The world desperately needs multiple COVID-19 vaccines to address the huge access inequity across the globe,” WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Health Products Dr. Mariângela Simão said in a statement accompanying the emergency-use authorization. “We urge manufacturers to participate in the COVAX facility, share their knowhow and data, and contribute to bringing the pandemic under control,” he added.
Separately, WHO issued guidelines for identifying emerging variants of the coronavirus using letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid stigmatizing any country or population from which the new strain had been initially discovered. In a statement, it urged people to avoid using names that profiled or stigmatized people or nationalities, adding that people should also avoid using country names to mark emerging variants.
According to the WHO statement, the variants thus far known by their initial discoveries in the U.K., South Africa, Brazil and India would henceforth be known as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, respectively, in order of detection. Other variants of interest continue down the alphabet, it added.
“While they have their advantages, scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting,” said the WHO, further explaining the decision to utilize the Greek alphabet.