Approval comes as cases surge around the world, putting pressure on governments to accelerate vaccination programmes.
The World Health Organization has listed Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, the agency said on Friday, the fifth jab to be given the status meant 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.
WHO Assistant Director-General Mariangela Simao said on Friday it was important to have more vaccines available because of supply problems for other shots, including from India, a main source of vaccines for the global COVAX vaccine sharing programme.
India has restricted exports because of a crisis of infections at home that has overwhelmed the country’s health system.
Moderna announced this week an expansion plan for its production network to boost its capacity to up to three billion doses in 2022.
The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) had in January already recommended Moderna’s vaccine for all age groups 18 and above.
Pfizer and its German partner BionTech’s shot, an mRNA vaccine like Moderna’s, was the first vaccine to get a WHO emergency use listing in the final hours of 2020.
Since then, the WHO has added vaccines from AstraZeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to the list.
The UN health agency is still considering COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese manufacturers Sinopharm and Sinovac following an extended review, with decisions due by the end of next week.