WHO authorizes Chinese vaccine CanSino against COVID-19

The World Health Organization announced on Thursday that it has granted emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine made by China’s CanSino Biologics, the 11th of its kind to receive the go-ahead.

The United Nations health agency said the single-dose CanSino vaccine was found to be about 92% effective against severe COVID-19 and 64% effective at preventing people from developing symptoms of the disease. The WHO vaccination expert group recommended applying it to all people aged 18 and older.

CanSino’s vaccine uses a harmless virus called adenovirus to introduce the spike protein of the coronavirus into the body, which then mounts an immune response. The technology is similar to vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which use different adenoviruses.

Last year, China’s top infectious disease official acknowledged that domestically developed vaccines offered low protection against COVID-19 and might need to be mixed with booster doses of newer messenger RNA vaccines.

Amid the rise of COVID-19 variants such as delta, omicron, and their subvariants, messenger RNA vaccines have apparently been more effective than those of more traditional manufacture.

The fact that CanSino has been authorized by the WHO means that the UN-backed COVAX initiative to distribute vaccines to poor countries can now procure and deliver vaccines made by the Chinese company. Last year, COVAX signed an agreement to buy more than 500 million Chinese vaccines produced by Sinopharm and Sinovac.

It is unknown how many of those doses are being used. Many countries that rely on COVAX for their immunization programs have expressed a preference for messenger RNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer.

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