Countries without access to vaccines can begin to jab the most vulnerable including health workers after the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was given the green light for global rollout by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The vaccine has been listed for emergency use after being assessed for quality, safety and efficacy.
It comes after scientists advising the WHO recommended the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in all adults, including those over 65.
"Today WHO gave emergency use listing to two versions of the Oxford-AstraZeneca #COVID19 vaccine, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally through COVAX"-@DrTedros #VaccinEquity #ACTogether https://t.co/mbmm1ZAOeM
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 15, 2021
A number of countries have opted not to give the jab to the more elderly section of society due to concerns that there is not enough data for that age group.
Speaking last week, Professor Katherine O’Brien, director of the department of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals with the WHO, said there is “no reason, especially because the over-65s are at the very highest risk of severe disease and death, that a product that has significant efficacy – it should go ahead and be used”.
On Monday the WHO said the emergency use listing will allow countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer Covid-19 vaccines.
The vaccines are produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India and WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained that while both companies are producing the same vaccine, they require separate reviews and approvals because they are made in different production plants.
Dr Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, said work must continue to ensure there is worldwide access to jabs.
“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.”
The Covax scheme aims to speed up the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for all countries.