The World Health Organization rubber stamped Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine this week, giving the vaccine an emergency use listing, which is comparable to the emergency use authorization the US gave to the vaccine in December.
The WHO’s authorization eases the regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine. The WHO says it also enables UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to procure the vaccine for distribution to countries in need.
The WHO stressed the importance of getting the vaccine distributed throughout the world.
“This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines. But I want to emphasize the need for an even greater global effort to achieve enough vaccine supply to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. “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.”
Pfizer’s vaccine comes in two doses, which means those who are vaccinated are asked to return in three weeks to receive a booster. Distributing the vaccine is made more arduous due to the extremely cold temperatures required to store the vaccines.
One challenge the WHO has in distributing the vaccine to less developed nations is the Pfizer vaccine is required to be stored at -90C to -60C. The WHO said it is working with nations to keep the vaccine refrigerated.
Pfizer said it hopes to have 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine distributed globally by the end of 2021.