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Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, says approval of Pfizer Incorporated’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine by the United Kingdom’s regulatory health authorities on December 2 has further raised the hope of one becoming available for deployment to countries soon.

Pfizer, along with Moderna and AstraZeneca, are the three manufacturers whose candidate vaccines had reached advanced stage-three clinical trials, which precedes regulatory authorities’ approval and World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification and authorisation.

“We understand that [over] the next [several] days or weeks, other vaccines will be authorised. I think that there is a very positive expectation that it might be possible to have a vaccine soon, to be used in countries,” Dr. Barbosa said.

He was speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (December 2).

Dr. Barbosa advised that vaccine prequalification by the WHO is closely linked with and based on work and evaluations undertaken by countries’ regulatory authorities, as also the entity’s independently sourced information.

Consequent on this, he said there is no vaccine that has already been recommended and authorised and available for use.

Dr. Barbosa said based on developments regarding Pfizer’s vaccine, among others, “I am certain that in the coming weeks, we will have [additional] vaccines”.

He disclosed that the WHO was also negotiating for the authorisation of vaccines for emergency use, adding that this has been discussed within the context of the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility.

The Facility is designed to accelerate equitable access by countries globally to appropriate, safe and efficacious vaccines.

Noting that several regulatory authorities have adopted special procedures in order to facilitate a faster approval process for emergency use, Dr. Barbosa explained that if phases one and two of clinical trials have been completed, the data from these are reviewed by regulatory authorities.

He added that phase-three trial data are, thereafter, reviewed by the regulatory authorities, upon completion of the phase and added to information already analysed.

“This will also allow [for the maintenance of] everything that is needed to guarantee a fast and thorough analysis, based on sound criteria to analyse all of the necessary data,” the Assistant Director further outlined.

Dr. Barbosa indicated that in using COVAX, “we can [and will] have a better idea about the number of vaccines available for administration”.

Noting that vaccines are initially produced on a limited basis, he said this is largely the reason behind the recommendation that the most vulnerable persons in beneficiary countries be among the first to be inoculated.

“That is to say, vaccinate, first, health workers as well as the elderly and persons with chronic diseases. This will certainly be the first phase of the vaccination campaign. We are going to [focus on] how to use that vaccine to control [COVID-19] transmission,” Dr. Barbosa added.

Over the past week, the region of the Americas recorded 1.6 million new COVID-19 cases and 22,000 deaths.

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