The European Union’s drug regulator says it has started a rolling review of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine to assess its effectiveness and safety, a first step towards possible approval for use in the 27-nation bloc.
The European Medicines Agency said its decision to start the review is based on preliminary results from laboratory and clinical studies.
“These studies suggest that the vaccine triggers the production of antibodies” that fight the coronavirus “and may help protect against the disease”, the agency said in a statement.
The EMA added that no application has yet been submitted for marketing authorisation for the vaccine.
The agency also is conducting rolling reviews of three other vaccines, developed by German company CureVac, the American-developed Novavax and Russia’s Sputnik V.
The agency said its experts will “evaluate data as they become available to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks” of the vaccine.
The rolling review will continue until “enough evidence is available for a formal marketing authorisation application”, the EMA said, adding that it could not predict timelines.
The announcement from the Amsterdam-based agency came a day after a senior World Health Organisation official said the group is set to decide this week whether to approve two Chinese Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use.
Such approval would mark the first time that a Chinese vaccine had been granted a so-called emergency use listing by the UN health agency, and would trigger a broader rollout of Chinese vaccines that are already being used in some countries outside China.
China and a number of other countries, including Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey, already are using the Sinovac vaccine, which is made using killed or inactivated coronavirus.
No Phase 3 study data on the vaccine has yet been published in peer-reviewed journals. The vaccine has been studied in several countries.
The most closely watched research involved about 12,000 health workers in Brazil, where researchers reported 50.7% effectiveness against symptomatic Covid-19 and much stronger protection against severe disease.