PAHO welcomes international endorsement of AstraZeneca vaccine

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THE Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has welcomed last week’s World Health Organization’s (WHO) international endorsement of the covid19 AstraZeneca vaccine, which is jointly produced by Argentina and Mexico.

In a statement on December 23, PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne said, “This is an important milestone for Latin America and highlights the importance of technology transfer to increase the availability of quality covid19 vaccines in the region.”

The regionally-produced AstraZeneca vaccine is already in use in some Latin American and Caribbean countries (including Trinidad and Tobago).

PAHO said its inclusion in the WHO emergency use listing (EUL) will facilitate its procurement and distribution through PAHO’s revolving fund as well as Covax, the international mechanism to increase global covid19 vaccines access. The approval comes as the pandemic enters its third consecutive year and the region sees a steady climb in covid19 cases. In the past week, the Americas reported over 1.1 million new covid19 infections. PAHO said this is a six per cent increase in cases from the previous week. Vaccine inequity continues to divide the region, with a handful of countries unlikely to reach the 40 per cent vaccination target by the end of the year and many just above the 50 per cent threshold of full covid19 immunisation.

Etienne said boosting regional capacity to produce covid19 vaccines is key to bridging this gap. Citing the international endorsement as an example of how the region is primed to develop its pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, she added, “If given the opportunity and tools, our region can deliver.”

PAHO recommends countries opt for WHO EUL vaccines, which are evaluated based on international standards for quality, safety and efficacy. The WHO emergency use listing is a procedure for assessing and listing vaccines, therapeutics and other medical tools to expedite their availability during a public health emergency. To date, eleven covid19 vaccines are listed under this mechanism.

“We remain committed to continuously supporting our countries to increase the production of critical medicines, as the region can meaningfully contribute to addressing the inequities we have seen to date.”

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