COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson may be gamechanger
Friday - 29/01/2021 13:43
Johnson & Johnson says its vaccine is at least 66% effective in trials, and this jab’s unique quality could be a gamechanger for the global rollout.
As the a global COVID-19 vaccine standoff continues, there’s a new player in town and this jab’s unique quality could be a gamechanger for the rollout.
Johnson & Johnson’s product has an overall efficacy of at least 66 per cent, the company announced on Friday, and crucially, the vaccine only requires one dose.
This sets it apart from the other jabs that have been approved in western countries so far from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca. These vaccines all require two shots, given several weeks apart, which has created extra challenges for countries trying to vaccinate their populations as efficiently as possible.
Johnson & Johnson announced the 66 per cent efficacy figure after a phase three trial of almost 44,000 people across multiple countries. The figure was as high as 72 per cent in the United States but went down to 57 per cent in South Africa, where a more contagious mutant strain is spreading.
The company added that the vaccine was 85 per cent effective in preventing severe COVID-19 across all geographical regions.
It can be stored for up to three months at 2-8 degrees Celsius, while the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines require freezing temperatures, making delivery more complicated.
Johnson & Johnson has been working “in close collaboration” with federal health authorities in Australia to get its candidate approved, it said last week. A spokesperson for Janssen, J&J’s pharmaceutical arm, told The New Daily that the firm was “in active discussions with local and international health authorities, governments, regulators and NGOs” regarding its vaccine.
“Johnson & Johnson embarked on the global effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago, and has brought the full force of our capabilities, as well as tremendous public-private partnerships, to enable the development of a single-shot vaccine,” said CEO Alex Gorsky on Friday.
“We’re proud to have reached this critical milestone and our commitment to address this global health crisis continues with urgency for everyone, everywhere.”
The company is expected to apply for a US emergency authorisation imminently so it could soon be the third vaccine available in the world’s worst-hit nation, which has now reported more than 25.7 million cases and 433,000 deaths.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which were the first to be authorised in the US, have efficacies of around 95 per cent. The AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved second in the UK after Pfizer and before Moderna, had a 62 per cent efficacy in trials, rising to 90 per cent when patients were given a half dose followed by a full dose.
However, like the J&J vaccine, the AstraZeneca shot does not have to be stored at such low temperatures as the other two.
Johnson & Johnson’s efficacy results are also not considered like for like because the other vaccine trials came before the more contagious variants of the virus became prevalent in countries including the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
These variants, such as B.1.135 in South Africa and P.1 in Brazil, elude some of the blocking action of antibodies triggered from vaccines made against the common strain of the coronavirus.
SERIOUS ROLLOUT CHALLENGES
The news comes as the European Union prepares to authorise the AstraZeneca vaccine amid a growing row over delivery.
Germany said it expected restrictions on the vaccine’s use since there was not enough data available on its efficacy in older people.
“We’re not expecting an authorisation without limits,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told a press conference on Friday, adding that the approval could carry rules around usage for the elderly.
Germany’s vaccine commission has said it could not recommend the use of vaccine jabs on people aged 65 years and older because there was not enough efficacy data.
The EU is due to announce details on Friday of an authorisation system that will allow member states to block vaccine exports, raising concerns over supply of the Pfizer vaccine to countries including Australia.
It came amid an escalating row between the EU and AstraZeneca after the British-Swedish company said it could only supply a bloc with a quarter of the doses it had promised for the first quarter of 2021.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne is making representations to the EU and World Health Organisation to shore up Australia’s position as the companies grapple with manufacturing delays, according to the newspaper.
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Friday outlined a ‘Plan B’ strategy for the vaccine rollout amid concerns over the supply of vaccines from Europe and questions over whether over 65s should use the AstraZeneca jab.
The Morrison Government has reassured Australians they have bought “three times” the number of vaccines needed to vaccinate the entire population, and Mr Hunt said even in the event there were issues with import slowdowns from Europe that Australia was well-placed to secure enough vaccine, particularly as a result of onshore manufacturing capability at CSL.
There were also signs that a third vaccine in Australia’s sights, Novavax, has a 95.6 per cent efficacy against the original COVID virus strain and 85 per cent against the UK strain.