Health Canada has approved the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine in Canada
The vaccine is the fourth to receive approval from federal regulators and the first that requires only a single dose. It's being produced by the U.S. health care giant's pharmaceutical subsidiary, Janssen Inc.
"As with all COVID-19 vaccines, Health Canada authorized the Janssen one after an independent and thorough scientific review for safety, efficacy and quality," Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, told a media briefing in Ottawa today.
"After assessing all the data, we concluded there was strong evidence that showed the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks."
Health Canada concluded the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 66.9 per cent and has authorized it for use for adults aged 18 and older.
While the vaccine is less effective than previously approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — both of which had efficacy rates of 90 per cent and above — Sharma said the shot offers strong protection against the threats that matter most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death.
"The efficacy rate does not mean that following vaccination with a vaccine with 66 per cent efficacy, that you will have a 34 per cent chance of contracting COVID-19," said Sharma.
"While each of the vaccines 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 … vaccines that have been authorized."
One-shot vaccine is easy to store
The Johnson & Johnson approval is expected to accelerate Canada's vaccine rollout by adding another option to the previously-approved Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines. (A second version of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine produces by the Serum Insititute of India also has been authorized.)
Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is widely seen as one of the easiest to administer because it requires only one dose and can be stored for long periods of time at regular refrigerator temperatures of 2 C to 8 C.
It's an adenovirus viral vector vaccine, which uses viral material — genetically engineered to keep it from replicating — to provoke an immune response.
Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson, with options for up to 28 million more.
Joëlle Paquette, director general for vaccines at Public Services and Procurement Canada, said yesterday that doses aren't expected to begin arriving until April, although the full order of 10 million should be delivered by September.
"At the moment, we are still in discussion with Johnson and Johnson to determine where their doses will be coming from and the delivery schedule," Paquette said.
Sharma said Health Canada has provided authorizations for manufacturing at two facilities — one in the U.S. and one in Europe.
Regulatory approval in this country follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval last Saturday.
Production problems slowed initial deliveries in the U.S. The United States was supposed to receive 10 million doses as soon as the vaccine was approved, but only four million doses were shipped out March 1.
The U.S. expects to get another 16 million doses by the end of March and 100 million total by the end of June.
Canada has worked with the European Medicines Agency on all its COVID-19 vaccine reviews to date. The agency is expected to make a decision mid-month.
With files from the Canadian Press
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