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WHO Grants Emergency Authorization to Vaccine

Hundreds of millions of AstraZeneca doses will be shipped to countries in COVAX program
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 15, 2021 6:00 PM CST

(Newser) – The World Health Organization has granted an emergency authorization to AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine, a move that should allow the UN agency's partners to ship millions of doses to countries worldwide as part of a UN-backed program to tame the pandemic. In a statement Monday, the WHO said it was clearing the AstraZeneca vaccines made by the Serum Institute of India and South Korea’s AstraZeneca-SKBio. The WHO's green light for the AstraZeneca vaccine is only the second one the UN health agency has issued after authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in December, the AP reports. Monday's announcement should trigger the delivery of hundreds of millions of doses to countries that have signed up for the UN-backed COVAX effort, which aims to deliver vaccines to the world's most vulnerable people.

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"Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk," said Dr Mariângela Simão, the WHO's assistant-director general for access to medicines and health products. The coronavirus pandemic has infected about 109 million people worldwide and killed at least 2.4 million of them. But many of the world's countries have not yet started vaccination programs and even rich nations are facing shortages of vaccine doses as manufacturers struggle to ramp up production. The AstraZeneca vaccine has already been authorized in more than 50 countries, including Britain, India, Argentina, and Mexico. It is cheaper and easier to handle than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which needs deep cold storage that is not widely available in many developing nations.

(Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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