The World Health Organization said Thursday that any COVID-19 vaccines it has authorized for emergency use should be recognized by countries as they open up their borders to inoculated travelers. The move could challenge Western countries to broaden their acceptance of two apparently less effective Chinese vaccines, which the UN health agency has licensed but most European and North American countries have not, the AP reports. In addition to vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, the WHO has also given the green light to the two Chinese jabs, made by Sinovac and Sinopharm.
"Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the reopening of travel ... would effectively create a two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide," a WHO statement said Thursday. The two Chinese shots are "inactivated" vaccines, made with killed coronavirus, whereas the Western-made shots are made with newer technologies that target the spike protein that coats the surface of the coronavirus. In its reviews of the two Chinese vaccines, the WHO said both were found to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalizations and death, although the head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged earlier this year that the effectiveness of its home-grown shots was low. (Read more coronavirus stories.)