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WHO Approves Chinese COVID Vaccine for Emergency Use Worldwide

By VOA News May 07, 2021

The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved a COVID-19 vaccine developed in China for emergency use worldwide.

The vaccine, from China's state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm, is the first vaccine manufactured by a non-Western country to be endorsed by WHO.

Friday's move was also the first time the global public health group granted emergency approval to a Chinese vaccine for an infectious disease.

China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine has already been administered to hundreds of millions of people in China and in other parts of the world, along with a second Chinese vaccine.

WHO's decision allows the Sinopharm vaccine to be included in COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX, an initiative to distribute vaccines to mainly poor countries.

WHO has said it could decide on China's second main vaccine, made by Sinovac Biotech, as early as next week.

China has released little information about either of its two vaccines, with the exception of efficacy numbers. Previously, a group advising WHO on vaccines had said data were particularly scarce on the use of the Sinopharm vaccine in people 60 and older.

Alejandro Cravioto, head of the WHO advisory group on immunizations, said Friday that the group had concluded "there is enough evidence of safety and the capacity of the vaccine to prevent severe disease or symptomatic and hospitalized cases up to 79%."

"The information we have for people over 60 is still very scarce," he said. But, he added, "there is no reason to think that the vaccine would behave differently in this older age group."

WHO previously approved for emergency use vaccines developed by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

India

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to ravage India, putting pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lock down the country to control the outbreak.

A "coordinated countrywide strategy" is needed, Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, told The Associated Press. He said the lockdowns some Indian states have imposed are not enough in the battle to defeat COVID-19 in India.

India's main opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, urged Modi in a letter Friday to implement a national lockdown, accelerate the vaccination campaign and increase tracking of the virus and its mutations.

"Allowing the uncontrollable spread of the virus in our country will be devastating not only for our people but also for the rest of the world," Gandhi said.

India's health ministry reported record-breaking statistics Friday for the previous 24-hour period: 414,188 new COVID-19 cases and 3,915 deaths. Officials believe the tolls are likely higher.

United States

The White House COVID-19 Response Team said Friday its focus is on meeting the president's new goal of fully vaccinating 160 million Americans by July 4, as infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline.

At the team's briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said that by the end of the day, 110 million Americans will have been fully vaccinated and 150 million Americans, or 57%, will have had at least one shot.

Zients said that to help meet the president's goal, the government will make walk-up, no-appointment shots available at 20,000 pharmacies around the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will also be shipping vaccines from high-volume vaccination centers around the country to smaller community-based sites, where they are more in demand.

Global

In Mexico City, health officials announced that the occupancy rate in public hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 care was 16%, the lowest rate since the pandemic began. The rate was a marked change from January, when COVID-19 infections peaked in the city.

Spain is relaxing nationwide coronavirus pandemic measures this weekend; however, regional restrictions will remain in place in certain areas.

Australians who were banned from entering their country if they had traveled to India will be allowed to return home starting May 15, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday. Australians will not, however, be allowed to board the repatriation flights out of India if they test positive for the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 3.2 million lives around the world, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported Friday. The U.S. has suffered the most deaths, according to Johns Hopkins, with nearly 581,000. Brazil is rapidly catching up with the U.S. death toll, with more than 419,000 deaths, followed by India, with more than 234,000 deaths.

There have been more than 156.4 million global infections, according to Johns Hopkins. The U.S. remains the location with the most infections, with more than 32.6 million, followed by India, with 21.5 million infections, and Brazil, with 15.1 million.



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