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A healthcare worker giving a patient a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine in Florida on Dec. 30. Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Thursday listed Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The approval — the WHO's first for a coronavirus vaccine — may allow some countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes so they can import and administer the vaccine quicker, the WHO said.

What they're saying: In issuing the emergency use validation, Mariângela Simão, the WHO's assistant-director general for access to medicines and health products, stressed that the world should strive for more equitable global access to coronavirus vaccines.

  • “This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines. But I want to emphasize the need for an even greater global effort to achieve enough vaccine supply to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere,” Simão said.
  • "It’s vitally important that we secure the critical supply needed to serve all countries around the world and stem the pandemic.”

The big picture: The approval also enables UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to obtain and distribute the vaccine to countries in need.

  • People in Europe, the U.S. or other wealthy countries will likely gain access to the vaccine far before others in lower-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, do, Axios' Dave Lawler reports.

Go deeper: EU launches coronavirus vaccine drive to inoculate 450M people

Go deeper

21 hours ago - Health

Cities launch efforts to vaccinate the homeless

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Cities around the world are ramping up efforts to vaccinate homeless people as part of an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, following pressure from local activists.

Why it matters: Many homeless people have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk for severe illness if they contract the disease, and often lack access to health care. People without homes are "chronically neglected around the world and acutely vulnerable to the coronavirus," writes the Washington Post.

18 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

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