(Reuters) - Argentina's regulator on Wednesday approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University for emergency use, AstraZeneca said in a statement.
AstraZeneca said the approval by the National Administrator for Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT) made Argentina "one of the first countries in the world to authorize" the drug, after the UK regulator gave the green light for its widespread roll-out earlier on Wednesday.
The company said the approval was for the vaccine to be administered to people over the age of 18 in two doses between four and 12 weeks apart, as per the UK approval.
Argentina has a contract to buy 22.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, which the company said would all be delivered in 2021. Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez said in August that Argentina and Mexico would also work together to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine for most of Latin America.
Agustín Lamas, President of AstraZeneca in Latin America's Southern Cone, said: "A new stage in this process begins, we feel hopeful and confident in achieving what we set out to do from the beginning: broad and equitable access, without profit for the duration of the pandemic."
The Argentine regulator said in a statement that it had judged the vaccine's emergency roll-out to present "an acceptable benefit-risk balance."
Argentina on Christmas Eve began vaccinating health workers using 300,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
Argentina is preparing for a potential second wave facing other countries in the region including Chile, Mexico and Brazil. It has so far registered 1,602,163 cases of COVID-19 and 43,018 deaths.
(Reporting by Aislinn Laing in Santiago and Nicolas Misculin; editing by Grant McCool)