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Decisions on three vaccines in weeks: WHO

The World Health Organisation expects to make decisions on whether to give emergency use approval to COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca in coming weeks, its chief scientist says.

Soumya Swaminathan said the global health body could decide on Pfizer’s vaccine candidate in the next “couple of weeks” and later said it could also review Moderna’s and AstraZeneca’s in a few weeks.

WHO approval could allow a vaccine to be deployed in some countries where their own medical regulators have not yet been able to evaluate it.

Swaminathan said at least 10 companies had expressed an interest or submitted a request for emergency approval for vaccine candidates.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said nearly a billion doses of vaccines had been secured for the COVAX program to provide shots for poor- and middle-income countries, with 189 countries participating.

But several WHO officials noted that it would still take time to manufacture enough doses of vaccines to meet demand.

Swaminathan said the supply was likely to be limited for the first half of 2021.

British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said on Friday it would collaborate with a Russian state producer of Sputnik V to potentially combine their coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said their potential COVID-19 vaccine won’t be ready until late next year as they seek to improve the shot’s effectiveness in older people.

The companies said early-stage trials showed the vaccine produced an “insufficient” immune response in older adults, demonstrating the need to refine the product so it protects people of all ages.

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