The World Health Organization firmly endorsed AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine Friday as countries continue to suspend using it, while approving Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine for emergency use.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris described AstraZeneca’s vaccine at a virtual briefing hosted in Geneva as “excellent” and that “we should continue to be using the vaccine.”
The WHO endorsement came as Thailand followed an increasing number of European countries in suspending its use because of periodic blood clots among recipients.
The European Medicines Agency said in a statement that the AstraZeneca vaccine’s “benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing.”
The WHO also broadened global access to vaccines by approving Johnson & Johnson’s for emergency use, the first to inoculate recipients with a single injection, instead of two, and the third to receive WHO’s endorsement.
“Every new, safe and effective tool against COVID-19 is another step closer to controlling the pandemic,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientist, Paul Stoffels, told Reuters on Thursday that the company intends to manufacture about 3 billion doses in 2022 after earlier vowing to deliver 1 billion worldwide by the end of this year.
The U.S., Australia, India and Japan agreed to a partnership Friday to make 1 billion vaccines available across Asia by the end of 2022, India’s foreign secretary said at a news conference in New Dehli after a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and the leaders of the other countries.
At the meeting, the “Quad” group of four countries agreed to finance, manufacture and distribute the vaccine across Asia.
The initiative is designed to attack the global vaccine shortage and counter China’s growing diplomatic campaign to distribute vaccines in Southeast Asia and globally.
India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, will use its capacity to make U.S. vaccines, which will be financed by the U.S. and Japan. Australia will provide financing, training and logistical support for vaccine distribution.
India reported more than 23,000 new COVID-19 cases Friday.
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported more than 118 million global COVID-19 cases Friday. The U.S., with 29.2 million infections, has more cases than anywhere else in the world. India follows with 11.3 million cases, and Brazil comes in a close third with 11.2 million.