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Asia Minute: Chinese COVID-19 Vaccines Get Approval and Broader Use

Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP

The World Health Organization has approved two Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use. The approvals come at a time when demand for vaccines is running ahead of supply in many parts of the world—including the Indo-Pacific.

The WHO reviewed a vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech for nearly a month before announcing its approval on Tuesday.

Early last month, the WHO approved a vaccine made by China’s state-owned enterprise Sinopharm.

The journal Nature said that more than 45 countries around the world have already approved one or both of these Chinese-made vaccines for emergency use.

Both involve two shots several weeks apart. Neither requires super-cold storage like Pfizer or Moderna.

From Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, Chinese vaccines have already been distributed across much of the Indo Pacific.

Just last week, for the first time, a study of late-stage trials of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine was published in a U.S. medical journal.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that two vaccines produced by Sinopharm had efficacy rates of preventing symptomatic infections of 73% and 78%.

Chinese manufacturers had come under criticism for a lack of transparency and a failure to share information about clinical trials.

Tuesday’s approval by the WHO expands the number of vaccines that can be distributed under the COVAX program, a global public-private partnership designed to increase access to immunization in poor countries.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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