All WHO-approved jabs must be recognised for travel: UN

Source: The Hindu

Relevance: Vaccination is essential for global economic recovery.

The World Health Organization recently said that any COVID-19 vaccine it has authorised for emergency use should be recognised by countries as they open up their borders to inoculated travelers.

The move could force Western countries to broaden their acceptance of two apparently less effective Chinese vaccines. These vaccines are licensed by the UN health agency, but most European and North American countries have not.

About the European Union decision:
  • The European Union aims to restore travel across Europe. So, the EU earlier said that it would only recognise people as vaccinated if they had received shots licensed by the European Medicines Agency.
    • Although it is up to individual countries to let in travellers who have received other vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V.
    • The EU drug regulator is currently considering licensing China’s Sinovac vaccine, but there is no timeline on a decision.
What was the reason behind the recent WHO announcement?

The WHO has issued this statement due to the following problems in the decision of North America and the EU.

  • The decision by North America and the EU will undermine the confidence in life-saving vaccines that have already been shown to be safe and effective.
    • In addition to vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, the WHO has approved the two Chinese jabs, made by Sinovac and Sinopharm.
  • Create a two-tier system: The decision of the EU will only protect a section of people. Further, it will widen the global vaccine divide and exacerbate the inequities in vaccine distribution.
  • It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most due to COVID-19.
Few general differences between the Chinese and Western vaccines: 
  • The two Chinese shots are “inactivated” vaccines, made with killed coronavirus. Many developing countries have used Chinese-made vaccines.
  • The Western-made shots are made with newer technologies that instead target the “spike” protein that coats the surface of the coronavirus. Western countries have largely relied on vaccines made in the U.S. and Europe, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca

Terms to know:

  • mRNA vaccines: It is a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. It does not use the conventional model to produce an immune response. mRNA vaccine carries the molecular instructions to make the protein in the body through a synthetic RNA of the virus. The host body uses this to produce the viral protein that is recognized and thereby making the body mount an immune response against the disease.
  • Adeno Virus vaccines: In this type, a modified version of adenovirus is used. The virus can enter human cells but not replicate inside. A gene for the coronavirus vaccine was added into the adenovirus DNA, allowing the vaccine to target the spike proteins that SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter human cells.
  • Inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine: In this type, an inactivated live virus is used to create an immune response against the disease.

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