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WHO Officially Authorizes the Use of the AstraZeneca Vaccine.

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The World Health Organization on Monday authorized the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, paving the way for free and easily stored shots to be distributed to low- and middle-income countries around the world.

A small clinical trial in South Africa recently failed to show that the vaccine can stop people from taking mild or moderate cases of Covid-19 caused by a variant of the coronavirus that spreads there. But that vaccine had protected all participants from serious illness and death in other trials and could still prevent serious illness and death caused by the first variant discovered in South Africa.

The authorization, awaited after a panel of WHO experts recommended the use of the vaccine last week, applied to vaccines from two manufacturers: AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute, the Indian manufacturer that will offer many doses for the Covax initiative to bring vaccines to parts the poorest of the World.

WHO last year authorized the Pfizer-BionNTech vaccine. But his decision on the AstraZenecas vaccine is highly anticipated because the low price and easy storage requirements have made the vaccine the backbone of distribution plans in many parts of the world.

Countries that do not have access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and at-risk populations, contributing to the goal of Covax Facilities for the fair distribution of vaccines, Dr. Maringela Simo, WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, said in a statement.

The WHO panel of experts recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine be used in all adults, and in places where new variants are circulating. Countries are expected to start receiving their first parts of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Covax later in February.

In announcing the vaccine authorization Monday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said that while virus cases appear to be falling in many parts of the world, countries need to remain vigilant.

If we stop fighting her on any front, he said, she will be back again.

Following the release of the results of a small clinical trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine in South Africa, South Africa decided to discontinue plans for its distribution. Instead, South Africa was planning to inoculate health workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which prevented hospitalizations and deaths in clinical trials in the country.

The WHO panel that examined the AstraZeneca vaccine also advised that it be given to adults regardless of their age, breaking away from a number of European countries that have decided to limit the use of the vaccine to young people. And recommended that both doses of the vaccine be given between four and 12 weeks, citing evidence that the vaccine seems to work best when second doses are delayed.

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