The latest vaccine against Covid-19, this time developed by Johnson & Johnson, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the US.
The signal was already given on Wednesday, when the FDA issued a positive advice. In the meantime, the company has four million doses of the vaccine ready to ship.
Tests have shown the J&J vaccine is 85% effective against developing severe symptoms, and 66% effective against minor symptoms. The company also claims a 100% success rate against hospitalisation and death from the virus.
Two other vaccines have been approved in the US: Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, both of which have 95% effectiveness against severe symptoms.
However the J&J vaccine has important advantages in other ways: it can be stored at normal refrigerator temperature, removing the need for expensive and vulnerable storage to keep the vaccine at -70°C, as in the case of Pfizer.
It also provides full protection with one dose, compared to the two required by the others.
In Europe, the European Medicines Agency is expected to deliver its verdict on the J&J vaccine in mid-March, and when that happens Belgium is due in April to take delivery of 280,500 doses. Another 420,750 will follow in May, and 700,000 in June – a total of just over 1.4 million before the middle of the year.
As we report elsewhere, 305,732 people in Belgium have already received both doses of the vaccines currently in use, and another 484,601 have received the first dose of two.
The J&J vaccine would also help alleviate the problems with deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and as a single shot would be useful in the campaign to vaccinate vulnerable and difficult to reach groups like the homeless, who need to be vaccinated if the country is to reach a level of collective immunity to allow normal life to resume eventually.
In the US, J&J – which developed its vaccine in conjunction with Belgium’s Janssen Pharmaceutica – plans to deliver 20 million doses in March, rising to 100 million by the end of the first half of the year.