The World Health Organization (WHO) has granted emergency approval for the Covid vaccine made by the Chinese state-owned company, Sinopharm.
It is the first vaccine developed by a non-Western country to get WHO backing.
The vaccine has already been given to millions of people in China and elsewhere.
The WHO had previously only approved the vaccines made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.
But individual health regulators in various countries – especially poorer ones in Africa, Latin America and Asia – have approved Chinese jabs for emergency use.
With little data released internationally early on, the effectiveness of the various Chinese vaccines has long been uncertain.
The WHO said the addition of the vaccine had “the potential to rapidly accelerate Covid-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk”.
It is recommending that the vaccine be administered in two doses to those aged 18 and over.
A decision is expected in the coming days on another Chinese vaccine developed by Sinovac, while Russia’s Sputnik vaccine is under assessment.
The green light from the global health body is a guideline for national regulators that a vaccine is safe and effective.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it would give countries “confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval”.
The decision to list the Chinese vaccine for emergency use is expected to give a substantial boost to the scheme, which has been struggling with supply problems.
Prior to the WHO approval, the Sinopharm vaccine was already being widely used, with an estimated 65 million doses administered, according to reports.
In addition to China, countries already using the vaccine include the UAE, Pakistan and Hungary.
The decision on Friday to approve the vaccine for emergency use was made by the WHO’s technical advisory group, which reviewed the latest clinical data and manufacturing practices.
It said the vaccine’s efficacy for symptomatic and hospitalised cases of Covid-19 was estimated to be 79%.
One of the Chinese vaccines’ main advantages is that they can be stored in a standard refrigerator at 2-8 degrees Celsius, like the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The WHO said these “easy storage requirements” made the Sinopharm vaccine “highly suitable for low-resource settings”.
The two Chinese vaccines differ significantly from some of the other Covid vaccines currently in use, especially those by Pfizer and Moderna.
Developed in a more traditional way, they are so-called inactivated vaccines, which means they use killed viral particles to expose the immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response.