The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to approve several Western and Chinese Covid-19 vaccines in coming weeks it said on Wednesday, as it aims for rapid rollouts in poorer countries.
The WHO global scheme Covax wants to deliver at least two billion Covid-19 doses across the world this year, with at least 1.3 billion going to poorer countries.
But it is struggling to secure enough shots due to a shortage of funds, while wealthy nations have bought large volumes of vaccines for themselves.
Rich countries have their own regulatory bodies but many poorer countries rely on WHO authorisations as they have limited regulatory capacity themselves. WHO is therefore “expediting” emergency approvals, according to Reuters.
As well as the vaccines themselves, regulators usually authorise their manufacturing processes in different plants.
The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) could be authorised by WHO in February, and the same vaccine produced in South Korea by SK Bioscience could also be approved shortly after.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has already been given emergency approval in Britain, while decisions in the European Union and the US are close.
WHO authorised Pfizer’s vaccine at the end of December and officials say they are seeking a Covax supply deal with the US pharmaceutical giant, which has already committed hundreds of millions of doses this year to several wealthy nations.
The vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, which has a non-binding agreement to supply Covax with 500 million doses over an unspecified timeframe, is expected to get WHO approval in May or June at the earliest.
WHO is also considering possible quick approvals for two Chinese vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac who have already filed their applications.
Sinovac has yet to release global results of its Phase III trials, but its vaccine has been approved for emergency use in countries including Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey.