WHO issues emergency use validation for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

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Tami Jeffries, R.N., prepares the first locally-available dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va. on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

GENEVA (NewsNation Now) — The World Health Organization Thursday issued an Emergency Use Listing for the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the first to receive emergency validation from WHO since the coronavirus outbreak began a year ago.

According to WHO, the EUL opens the door for countries to expedite their own approval processes to distribute and administer the vaccine. It also enables UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to obtain the vaccine for distribution in countries in need.

“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. “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.” 

According to WHO, the emergency use listing assesses the suitability of the vaccine as well as the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine was authorized for emergency use in the United States on Dec. 11. The Moderna vaccine was also authorized for emergency use later in December. The United Kingdom was one of the first countries to authorize the Pfizer vaccine emergency use on Dec. 2.

The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at ultra-frozen temperatures, a big hurdle for developing countries where the required freezers and reliable electricity supply may not be available.

“This requirement makes the vaccine more challenging to deploy in settings where ultra-cold chain equipment may not be available or reliably accessible,” WHO said, adding that it was “working to support countries in assessing their delivery plans and preparing for use where possible.”

The vaccine is still under WHO policy review.

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