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AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine could get emergency WHO approval by mid-February

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AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine is in the final stages of review for a World Health Organization emergency-use listing and could receive approval by mid-February, the United Nations health agency said on Wednesday.

In a joint briefing with the WHO's SAGE expert panel on immunisation, officials recommended the shot should be widely used, emphasising that its benefits outweigh any risks.

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"We hope this will be followed very soon by the emergency-use listing of this product," the WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told the briefing.

Asked why the WHO was pushing ahead with recommendations on using the vaccine even before much-anticipated data from a large U.S. clinical trial of the shot, Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization, said the U.S. data was "not expected until into March".

"We have thousands of people dying from the infection, in many countries of the world, daily," he said.

"Anything we can do to use a product that might reduce that is totally justified, even if the information... is not (as) complete as we like."

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