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Is the J&J vaccine ready to market?

A covid-19 vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson has been effective in clinical trials and the single dose shot will now by submitted to the FDA for emergency use authorisation.

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Is the J&J vaccine ready to market?
DADO RUVIC REUTERS

A new covid-19 vaccine produced by American pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has been shown to be effective in combating the virus in clinical trials. The one-shot vaccination has been tested on patients around the world and the manufacturers are now expected to apply for emergency use authorisation from the FDA.

Across all Phase 3 trials Johnson and Johnson say the shot was 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease, but that it had been 85% effective against severe disease. The success of another vaccine will be relief to health officials as governments around the world search for greater options as they look to tackle new and often more dangerous strains of covid-19.

When will the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be available?

Although it has been proven to be effective in trials the manufacturers will not be able to roll it out nationwide until it meets the US government’s strict guidelines. Johnson and Johnson is expected to apply for emergency use authorisation early next week and the process will likely take a matter of weeks. Dr Mathai Mammen, the company's global head of research and development, told CNN that he expects authorisation to be granted by late February.

The Johnson & Johnson shot will become the third covid-19 vaccination to seek authorisation from the FDA since the pandemic began, following breakthroughs made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. Both of those were granted EUA in December are all already being rolled out nationally.

While the manufacturers hope to receive authorisation by late February there are some question marks over the speed of production. Before these positive results were published the US government pre-emptively ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, but Johnson & Johnson now believe that they will struggle to produce more than 10 million by the time they are granted authorisation. Dr. Mammen said that he expects they will meet that order by June and will make a billion doses this year globally.

What’s different about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

While the efficacy rate of the new vaccine is not as high as the two previous manufacturers’ (which boasted rates of around 90%), the Johnson and Johnson version has the huge benefit of only requiring one dose. Countries around the world are already struggling to administer the second round of the existing vaccinations, which slows distribution and reduces effectiveness is not done properly.

For most low-risk recipients the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s 85% efficacy against serious disease should be sufficient and it could prove a useful weapon as countries look to move towards herd immunity later this year.

In comparison to other, more regular vaccine the Johnson & Johnson offering is actually very effective. Typically, annual flu vaccines are usually only between 40 and 60% effective. On Friday Dr Anthony Fauci said on Friday that this latest development represents a useful alternative.

"A vaccine that's inexpensive, that's a single dose, and that has no cold chain requirements - that's pretty good," Dr Fauci told CNN.