WHO says Sinopharm and Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines have efficacy levels compatible with its requirements

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the data it has been given by Chinese firms Sinopharm and Sinovac suggest that their vaccines meet the WHO’s efficacy requirements for emergency-use listing.

Speaking on Wednesday, Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), said the body hopes to issue recommendations for the Chinese vaccines before the end of April.

“The information that the companies shared publicly at the (SAGE) meeting last week clearly indicates that they have levels of efficacy that would be compatible with the requirements that WHO has asked for this vaccine,” Cravioto told a Geneva news briefing.

“That means about 50% (efficacy) and preferably close to or above 70% and of course, they have all the safety data to show that this vaccine would cause no harm in humans when used,” the health expert noted.

However, Cravioto warned that “both vaccines lacked data in older age groups and in persons with co-morbidities,” adding further safety and efficacy studies will be needed to understand the impact on sub-populations. 

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The SAGE chair said the information they have suggests that these jabs are safe, and the final analysis would be used for emergency-use listing. He added that the vaccine would need to be given emergency-use listing by the WHO or another reputable regulatory body before SAGE can recommend its usage.

Earlier in March, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said the two Chinese firms could see their vaccines receive emergency listing “quite soon”. 

Vaccines made by the two companies have been widely used around the world, including in China, where more than 100 million shots have now been administered.

Sinovac claims its jab is around 80%-to-90% effective against Covid-19, but this has been questioned by some experts. In January, its Brazilian partner, the Butantan Institute, published trial data suggesting the vaccine was only 50.4% effective against the virus. The figure is substantially lower than other vaccines and would barely pass the thresholds set by most regulators. Sinovac’s chairman dismissed the comments, claiming the jab is 100% effective in preventing severe Covid-19 cases.

Sinopharm’s jab reportedly showed greater efficacy during trials: 86%.

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