The World Health Organization has designated Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, the organisation announced on Friday, making it the fifth vaccine to receive the designation, which is intended to expedite countries’ own approval of shots.
“The objective is to make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics available as rapidly as possible to address the emergency,” the WHO said in a statement.
According to WHO Assistant Director-General Mariangela Simao, it is critical to have more vaccines available due to supply issues for other shots, including from India, which is a major source of vaccines for the global COVAX vaccine sharing program.
India has limited exports due to a domestic infection epidemic that has overburdened the country’s health-care system.
Moderna announced this week an expansion plan for its production network, with the goal of increasing capacity to three billion doses by 2022.
In January, the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Committee of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) recommended Moderna’s vaccine for all age groups 18 and up.
Pfizer and its German partner BionTech’s shot, an mRNA vaccine similar to Moderna’s, was the first to be identified as an emergency use vaccine by the WHO in the final hours of 2020.
The WHO has since added vaccines from AstraZeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India, and Johnson & Johnson to the list.
Following an extensive study, the UN health agency is still considering COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Chinese manufacturers Sinopharm and Sinovac, with decisions expected by the end of next week.