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Canada approves Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

Last Updated Mar 5, 2021 at 9:07 am PDT

In this photo illustration a close-up of a hand holding a medical syringe in front of the Johnson & Johnson logo. (Photo Illustration by Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the fourth approved in Canada for emergency use against COVID-19

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is a single dose, unlike the other approved vaccines in Canada

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Canada has approved the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, making it the fourth shot in the country’s arsenal against the coronavirus.

The Johnson & Johnson shot, which is the first single-dose vaccine approved for emergency use against COVID-19, could greatly change Canada’s vaccination efforts.

The drug “can be transported at refrigerated temperatures between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for at least three months, giving greater flexibility in how it can be distributed across Canada,” explained Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada.

The Johnson & Johnson is approved for adults over the age of 18 at this time. Ongoing trials are expected to provide more information on the safety and efficacy of the shot in children and other groups.

While the efficacy is a bit lower than the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca shots, experts say the Johnson & Johnson drug still provides a large amount of protection against the virus and will help get more people fully vaccinated quicker.

“In clinical trials, it was shown to be 66 per cent effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19. This exceeds the efficacy standards issued by Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and other major regulators, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” Sharma said, Friday.

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“And while each of the vaccines that Health Canada has authorized has different efficacy numbers, the reality is that you will have a greatly reduced chance of getting COVID-19 with any of the five vaccines that have been authorized. But it’s not just about getting COVID-19 — what’s really important is whether any of the vaccines will prevent you from being hospitalized or dying of COVID-19. We know that all of the vaccines will protect you. Of the five vaccines that Health Canada has authorized, not one person who was vaccinated as part of the various trials, died of COVID-19. All vaccines are effective against severe cases and hospitalization. That’s a real success,” Sharma added.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which developed the vaccine, is owned by Johnson & Johnson.

Studies have also looked at the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s efficacy against some variants of concern currently circulating around the world. Sharma says resulting data has shown that, while “some minor differences were identified, the Janssen vaccine provided acceptable levels of efficacy in all regions against all variants tested.”

She notes Health Canada continues to work with manufacturers of all approved vaccines to assess the efficacy of their shots against variants.

Canada has pre-purchased 10 million doses of the vaccine, with the option to buy 28 million more.

Health Canada last week approved the AstraZeneca vaccine as well as a shot developed in India, which was produced in partnership with the aforementioned pharmaceutical company. Health Canada technically considers them two separate vaccines, which is why officials have been referring to the Johnson & Johnson shot as the fifth approved in Canada so far.