China has granted “conditional” market approval to a Sinopharm vaccine with a reported 79% efficacy rate against Covid-19, health authorities said Thursday.
This could signal a breakthrough in the battle to squash the pandemic in Asia and a major stride towards inoculating the world’s largest population.
Around 4.5 million Chinese, mainly health workers and workers destined for overseas jobs, have already been administered largely unproven emergency vaccines, according to authorities.
Deputy commissioner of the National Medical Products Administration Chen Shifei, on Thursday said his agency had granted a “conditional listing” to Sinopharm’s vaccine.
A conditional listing helps hustle emergency drugs to market in cases when clinical trials are yet to meet normal standards but indicate they will work.
“The known benefits of Sinopharm’s new inactivated coronavirus vaccine are bigger than the known and potential risks,” Mr. Chen added.
Vice Minister of the National Health Commission Zeng Yixin added that the listing allows the government to “extend vaccination to high-risk groups, those susceptible to a severe viral infection.
As a winter wave of virus infections batters much of the world, spurring fresh lockdowns and grim spikes in death tolls, attention has returned to China’s management of the pandemic.
China has broadly stamped out the virus inside its borders, introducing swift local lockdowns and mass testing when cases emerge.
China is forecast to be the only major economy to post positive growth this year.
But it has been heavily criticised for closing down discussion and reporting that questions the official narrative.
On Monday a Shanghai court jailed citizen journalist Zhang Zhan for four years for her reporting from Wuhan during the early months of the pandemic.