The World Health Organization has issued an emergency approval for a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which should allow the company’s partners to send millions of doses to countries around the world as part of a UN-backed pandemic program.
In a statement Monday, the UN Health Agency said it approved AstraZeneca vaccines developed by the Indian Serum Institute and South Korean AstraZeneca-SKBio.
The WHO green light for the AstraZeneca vaccine should trigger the delivery of hundreds of millions of doses to countries that have signed up for the UN-supported COVAX effort to deliver the vaccine to the world’s most vulnerable countries.
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Among that population are Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
WHO envoy for the Palestinians, Gerald Rockenschaub, told the Israeli Times on Monday that Palestine had already been given between 100,000 and 400,000 AstraZenec vaccines through COVAX.
Their arrival in Ramallah could be as early as the end of February or the beginning of March, but bureaucratic delays could also hinder their delivery.
“It all depends on when AstraZeneca gets approval,” Rockenschaub said.
“Countries that have not had access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and the at-risk population,” said Dr. Marângela Simão, WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products.
Although the WHO does not approve or regulate vaccines, it assesses their safety and efficacy for developing countries that do not have a strong regulatory system.
Last week, his group of vaccine experts recommended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over the age of 18, including countries that have discovered variants of COVID-19.
The WHO advice largely reflected guidelines previously issued by the UK Medicines Regulator and the European Medicines Agency.
A coronavirus pandemic has infected about 109 million people worldwide and killed at least 2.4 million.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to the reporting.