The World Health Organization gave emergency use approval to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, meaning distribution can start to poorer countries starved of doses to fight the pandemic.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford jab forms the bulk of batches being lined up through Covax, the global programme aimed at procuring and shipping out vaccines equitably around the world, regardless of wealth.
It is only the second COVID-19 jab to have received WHO authorization, after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“The WHO today listed two versions of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally through Covax,” the UN health agency said in a statement.
The two versions given the seal of approval are being produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and by SKBio in South Korea.
Separate reviews were needed for each production process, although the vaccine is the same.
“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 WHO assistant director-general Mariangela Simao.
“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.”