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WHO approves Pfizer vaccine for emergency use, paving way for rollout to countries in need

A health worker gets a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 at the N-1 military base in Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for it to be distributed to countries in need.

It is the first vaccine to be added to the UN organization’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL).

Its addition allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval process for the vaccine, and for UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to bring the vaccine to countries that need it.

Read more: For poorer countries, road to coronavirus vaccines far longer than the West

“This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products.

“It’s vitally important that we secure the critical supply needed to serve all countries around the world and stem the pandemic.”

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WHO convened regulatory experts from around the world, plus its own team, to approve the vaccine already being distributed in many first-world countries, including Canada.

“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,” WHO said in a statement.

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The UN organization will also support countries in delivering the vaccine as it requires super-cool storage, which could be a challenge for some countries that don’t have access to the necessary cooling equipment.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires two doses and is said to be 95 per cent effective against the coronavirus that has caused a worldwide pandemic.