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A health worker inoculates a man with a dose of Covaxin’s COVID-19 vaccine in Bangalore, India, in June. Photo: Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Wednesday approved Indian drugmaker Bharat Biotech's Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The approval should help with gaps in global coronavirus vaccine supplies, particularly in low-income countries, and boost the United Nations-backed COVAX program that's aimed at addressing COVID-19 vaccine inequality.

  • Without access to vaccines, people in low-income countries will keep dying long into the future as the virus continues circulating — increasing the risk of dangerous new variants emerging, per Axios' Caitlin Owens.

The big picture: The WHO said in a statement that Bharat Biotech's two-dose vaccine, which is made in India, is 78% against COVID-19.

  • The agency noted that the Indian government-backed vaccine is "extremely suitable for low- and middle-income countries due to easy storage requirements."

The bottom line: Mariângela Simão, WHO assistant-director general for access to medicines and health products, noted in a statement that vaccines are "the most effective medical tools we have to end the pandemic."

  • "But we must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of all populations, giving priority to the at-risk groups who are still waiting for their first dose, before we can start declaring victory," Simão added.

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Nov 29, 2021 - Health

Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world

Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

The emergence of the Omicron variant is bringing new urgency to global vaccination efforts.

Why it matters: New variants can emerge anywhere, and can spread everywhere. Getting doses to the developing world — and getting those doses into people's arms — is essential, and that effort has so far been lagging.

Nov 29, 2021 - Health

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday not to impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since been identified in several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new strain.

Nov 28, 2021 - Health

Moderna says updated vaccine for Omicron could be ready in early 2022

Syringes and a vial of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Moderna's chief medical officer Paul Burton said Sunday that a reformulated vaccine against the newly identified Omicron coronavirus variant could be ready as soon as early 2022 if it's found to be necessary.

Why it matters: Burton's comments on BBC's "Andrew Marr Show" come as companies are testing whether current COVID-19 vaccines will provide adequate protection against the strain.