AstraZeneca vaccine could get WHO emergency approval by mid-Feb, says agency

Key Points
  • AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine could receive emergency approval as soon as the middle of February, says the World Health Organization.
  • United States data on the AstraZeneca vaccine is not expected until March.
  • A WHO expert panel recommends widespread use of the shot, emphasizing that benefits outweigh any risks.
A dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is prepared by a member of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service at Basingstoke fire station, which has been set up as a vaccination centre and where crews are still answering 999 calls on February 4, 2021 in Basingstoke, England.
WPA Pool | Getty Images

AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine is in the final stages of review for a World Health Organization emergency-use listing and could receive approval by mid-February, the United Nations health agency said on Wednesday.

In a joint briefing with the WHO's SAGE expert panel on immunization, officials recommended the shot should be widely used, emphasizing that its benefits outweigh any risks.

"We hope this will be followed very soon by the emergency-use listing of this product," the WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told the briefing.

Asked why the WHO was pushing ahead with recommendations on using the vaccine even before much-anticipated data from a large U.S. clinical trial of the shot, Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization, said the U.S. data was "not expected until into March".

"We have thousands of people dying from the infection, in many countries of the world, daily," he said.

"Anything we can do to use a product that might reduce that is totally justified, even if the information... is not (as) complete as we like."

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