Serum Institute, producer of the AstraZeneca vaccine in India has been granted another emergency use approval for its new COVID-19 vaccine, which is thought will be more affordable to low income countries that are struggling with access.
In its latest statement, the World Health Organisation -WHO, the vaccine named Covovax has also been put on the COVAX Facility Portfolio after assessing it’s safety such that countries that are much in need and struggling to access doses on the market can easily import and administer the jab.
“Even with new variants emerging, vaccines remain one of the most effective tools to protect people against serious illness and death from SARS-COV-2,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, noting that this listing aims to increase access particularly in lower-income countries, 41 of which have still not been able to vaccinate 10% of their populations, while 98 countries have not reached 40%.
In terms of specifications, the ninth vaccine to receive an emergency use listing is protein based and is produced by creating an engineered virus containing a gene for a modified SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
The drug is taken in two doses and is stable at 2 to 8 °C refrigerated temperatures which makes it easy to use in many parts of Africa where refrigeration services remain a challenge.
However, while experts are quoted in foreign media saying that covovax could be used in vaccinating children of ages 3years and above, WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization SAGE) that formulates specific policies and recommendations for vaccines’ use in populations is yet to come out clear about this.
The WHO statement shows information on recommended age groups, intervals between doses, specific groups such as pregnant and lactating women will be issued in the coming days.
The new drug comes shortly after the WHO gave a green light for vaccines to be mixed and matched irrespective of what type one took as the first dose.