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WHO approves two versions of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine

Published on 16/02/21 at 11:02am

The WHO has greenlighted two versions of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, granting them authorisation to be rolled out globally through COVAX.

The vaccines are produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio in South Korea and the Serum Institute of India.

The WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) assesses the quality, safety, and efficacy of COVID-19 jabs before they are added to COVAX’s armoury of vaccines against the virus. The EUL also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was reviewed by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), which recommended it for all adults aged 18 and older. The jab has been found to have 63.09% efficacy, and the WHO said it is suitable for low- and middle-income countries due to easy storage requirements.

The organisation’s approval comes after controversy and debate regarding the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine in older age groups. A number of European countries have imposed age restrictions on the jab, saying there is insufficient evidence to show it is effective in older people. The WHO has consistently recommended the vaccine’s use in all people aged 18 and above.

Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, said: “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.

“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.”

Darcy Jimenez

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