The World Health Organization on Thursday granted emergency validation to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, paving the way for countries worldwide to quickly approve its import and distribution.
Britain launched its inoculation drive with the US-German vaccine on December 8, with the United States, Canada, and EU countries following suit.
The Pfizer/BioNTech #COVID19 vaccine today became the first vaccine to receive WHO validation for emergency use since the outbreak began.
Equitable global access to vaccines is crucial to combat the pandemic.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) December 31, 2020
WHO said the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to receive its “emergency validation” since the novel coronavirus first broke out in China a year ago.
“This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Mariangela Simao, a top WHO official tasked with ensuring access to medicines.
The WHO is “working night and day to evaluate other vaccines that have reached safety and efficacy standards,” said Simão, urging other developers to “come forward for review and assessment.”
“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,” she said in a statement.
WHO said it’s emergency use listing opens the way for regulators in different countries to approve the import and distribution of the vaccine.
It said it also enables UNICEF, which plays a key logistical role in distributing anti-Covid vaccines, and the Pan-American Health Organization to procure the vaccine for countries that need it.
WHO convened its own experts and those from around the world to review the data on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s “safety, efficacy, and quality,” weighing the benefits against the risks.
“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,” it said.
The first vaccine against Covid-19 in the world was actually registered by Russia, which had requested EUL from the WHO in late October for its Sputnik-V jab. That certification is still pending.
Pfizer’s vaccine was the first to be approved for emergency use in the US, on December 11 2020. Moderna’s vaccine followed a week later.