WHO’s COVID-19 emergency vaccine list aims to improve access in poor countries

ZURICH (Reuters) – The World Health Organization on Thursday listed Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, with the aim of accelerating access in developing countries.

FILE PHOTO: A nurse prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at EHPAD Hector Berlioz (retirement homes and day centers for the elderly) as France begins vaccination against coronavirus disease (COVID-19 ) in Bobigny, France, December 30, 2020. REUTERS / Charles Platiau

The United Nations health agency said it will work with regional partners to educate national health authorities about the two-dose vaccine and its expected benefits.

The WHO has established its Emergency Use List (EUL) process to help poorer countries without their own regulatory resources to quickly approve drugs for new diseases like COVID-19, which could otherwise cause delays.

The WHO review found that the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine met criteria “must-have” for safety and the effectiveness of the benefits outweighed the risks.

“This is a very positive step in ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Mariangela Simao, WHO’s Access to Medicines Program Manager.

“But I want to stress the need for an even greater global effort to achieve sufficient vaccine supply to meet the needs of priority populations around the world.”

The United Nations health agency, along with GAVI Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), are leading a global effort called COVAX to secure and distribute vaccines to the poorest countries, to ensure that vaccines do not are not sent only to rich countries.

The COVAX alliance, backed by the WHO, has reached deals for nearly 2 billion doses, with the first deliveries scheduled for early 2021. The alliance is in talks with Pfizer and BioNTech to obtain a vaccine.

Despite this, the difficult storage and delivery requirements of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, including keeping it at minus 70 degrees Celsius, have made deliveries difficult in Western countries and may pose greater hurdles for developing countries without infrastructure. adequate.

The vaccine has received regulatory support from the UK, European Medicines Agency, US Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, Bahrain, Israel, Kuwait, Mexico, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

The messenger RNA vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech was found to be 95% effective after two doses 21 days apart.

Reporting by John Miller; Edited by Dan Grebler