The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for “emergency use”
The approval was contained in a statement issued by the organisation on Thursday.
It is the first vaccine granted emergency use authorisation by the WHO, and according to Pfizer and BioNTech, it is said to be 90 percent effective.
It has also been approved in countries such as the UK, US, Malaysia, Switzerland, among others.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) today listed the Comirnaty COVID-19 mRNA vaccine for emergency use, making the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine the first to receive emergency validation from WHO since the outbreak began a year ago,” the statement reads.
“The WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) opens the door for countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine. It also enables UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to procure the vaccine for distribution to countries in need.”
Speaking on the development, Mariângela Simão, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, said the approval will encourage the development of more vaccines as part of efforts to ensure access and equitable distribution across countries.
“This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines. But I want to emphasise the need for an even greater global effort to achieve enough vaccine supply to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere,” Simão said.
“WHO and our partners are working night and day to evaluate other vaccines that have reached safety and efficacy standards. We encourage even more developers to come forward for review and assessment. It’s vitally important that we secure the critical supply needed to serve all countries around the world and stem the pandemic.”
The WHO explained that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was reviewed for safety, efficacy and quality “as part of a risk-versus-benefit analysis”.
“The review found that the vaccine met the must-have criteria for safety and efficacy set out by WHO, and that the benefits of using the vaccine to address COVID-19 offset potential risks. The vaccine is also under policy review,” the statement by WHO reads.
The WHO’s strategic advisory group of experts on immunization (SAGE) is scheduled to convene on January 5, 2021, “to formulate vaccine specific policies and recommendations for this product’s use in populations”.
It is not yet clear if the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is what will be contained in the shipment of 20 million doses expected in Nigeria, considering that the country is currently on the queue to benefit from the COVAX facility arrangement in collaboration with the WHO.