AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine gets first approval in U.K.
A World Health Organization panel recommended AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, paving the way to speed up inoculations in developing countries.
The panel recommended the vaccine for adults over 18 years old, according to a statement Wednesday. It’s set to become the second shot the WHO approves after clearing the vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE in December.
It’s good news for developing countries, many of which are waiting to administer their first shots as wealthier countries have already inoculated millions of residents. AstraZeneca has pledged significant supplies to Covax, a facility that aims to distribute vaccines equitably around the world. Its shot is easier to deploy than other vaccines like Pfizer’s that need to be stores at ultra-cold temperatures, and costs less.
As mutated virus strains spread across the globe, concern has grown that they’ll impact vaccine efficacy. South Africa, where one of the variants was first identified late last year, said it would pause a rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine after a trial showed it had limited efficacy against mild infections with the strain. AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said the shot should still protect against severe disease, and WHO officials underlined the benefits of continuing to use the vaccine even in variant-hit areas.
Some European countries have recommended against giving the vaccine to the elderly, citing insufficient trial data.