The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday listed the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca for emergency use.
The listing by the United Nations’ health agency comes days after a panel of experts recommended the use of the products in settings where variants of the coronavirus are circulating.
According to a WHO statement, it had approved the relatively inexpensive shot produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (South Korea) and the Serum Institute of India.
“We now have all the pieces in place for the rapid distribution of vaccines. But we still need to scale up production,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing.
“We continue to call for COVID-19 vaccine developers to submit their dossiers to WHO for review at the same time as they submit them to regulators in high-income countries,” he said.
Earlier, WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization provided interim recommendations on the vaccine, saying two doses with an interval of 8 to 12 weeks should be given to all adults and can be used in all countries, including those where a new variant of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa was present.
The country last week paused part of its roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine after data from a small trial showed it did not protect against mild to moderate illness from the 501Y.V2 variant.
The WHO’s review found that the AstraZeneca vaccine met the “must-have” criteria for safety, and its efficacy benefits outweighed its risks.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca shot has been hailed because it is cheaper and can be stored at normal fridge temperatures. This makes it easier to distribute than some rivals, including the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which was listed for emergency use by the WHO late in December.
Nearly 109 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and more than 2.5 million have died.