WHO grants emergency authorization for AstraZeneca vaccine

WHO grants emergency authorization for AstraZeneca vaccine
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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday said that it has approved two versions of a vaccine produced by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford and would begin distributing them through the WHO's COVAX program.

In an emailed statement, the WHO said that the approval of the AstraZeneca version would allow for more countries that have yet to obtain access to the vaccine to do so.

“Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the COVAX Facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution,” said Mariângela Simão, the WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products.

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"But we must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere and facilitate global access. To do that, we need two things  a scale-up of manufacturing capacity, and developers’ early submission of their vaccines for WHO review," added Simão.

The WHO's approval process for the vaccines lasted less than four weeks, according to the organization's news release.

"In the case of the two AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines, WHO assessed the quality, safety and efficacy data, risk management plans and programmatic suitability, such as cold chain requirements. The process took under four weeks," it said.

AstraZeneca's vaccines are the second to be approved for use by COVAX; the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate was previously approved with the WHO-led vaccine distribution effort aiming to deliver 330 million doses to residents of less developed nations in the first half of 2021.