The World Health Organization (WHO) formally approved emergency authorization for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, allowing two versions of it to be distributed through the global COVAX program.
AstraZeneca-SKBio is producing the two vaccines in the Republic of Korea and the Serum Institute of India. With approval — which assessed the quality, safety, and efficacy of the vaccine — they can begin distributing to more countries that have yet to obtain access to the vaccine. Countries will also now be able to hasten internal regulatory approval to import and administer the vaccines.
“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 Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. “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.”
The review process took less than four weeks, under the guidance of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE). The SAGE recommended the vaccine for anyone age 18 and above. Originally developed by the University of Oxford and its spin-out company, Vaccitech, the vaccine — ChAdOx1-S — has an efficacy of 63.09 percent but can be more easily distributed in low- and middle-income countries than several other vaccines due to easy storage requirements.