A vial with the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mary Altaffer

A vial with the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mary Altaffer

What we know about J&J’s single-dose vaccine, set to arrive at the end of April

Canada approved the vaccine in early March and had pre-ordered 10 million doses

Canada will soon add another COVID-19 vaccine to its supply, with procurement minister Anita Anand announcing this week that initial shipments of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose jab are to arrive by the end of April.

Canada approved the vaccine in early March and had pre-ordered 10 million doses, but manufacturing problems from the company led to shipment delays to Canada and elsewhere.

Anand did not have details when she made her announcement Tuesday about how many doses would be included in the first shipment.

Johnson & Johnson gives Canada four distinct vaccines — along with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca — and its one-and-done element adds flexibility to the country’s plan to immunize the majority of its residents by September.

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont., says that while the vaccines are arriving later than expected, they’ll be a welcome addition to Canada’s rollout.

“A single-dose vaccine, as well as the fact it only requires a regular fridge (to store it), that is so huge in terms of taking this vaccine and bringing it to targeted populations,” he said. “I wish it was (arriving before) the end of April, but I’ll take it.”

Johnson & Johnson hit another manufacturing bump Wednesday, announcing that a batch of its vaccine had failed quality standards and can’t be used.

The drugmaker didn’t say how many doses were lost, and it wasn’t clear how the problem would impact future deliveries.

Here’s what we know about Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine:

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

Johnson & Johnson announced promising results from its Phase 3 clinical trials at the end of January, suggesting its vaccine reduced severe COVID-19 disease by 85 per cent, and prevented 100 per cent of COVID-related hospitalization or death.

The vaccine had a 72 per cent efficacy in preventing COVID infections after 28 days in the company’s U.S. trials. The efficacy dropped to 66 per cent when averaging in results from other global trials, including a South African study that factored in more transmissible variants of the COVID virus.

Pfizer and Moderna showed 95 per cent efficacy in their respective trials, but those were tested against previous dominant strains and didn’t account for variants that have popped up since.

Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca also had zero hospitalizations and deaths in their trials.

Chakrabarti says it’s important to distinguish the timing of the four trials, and stressed that they all work exceedingly well the metrics that matter most.

“All four of these vaccines … are exceptionally effective at preventing hospitalization and death,” he said. “Those are the two things that we care about.”

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS VACCINE?

The ease of distribution offered by a single-dose shot — unlike the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — and its ability to be stored in a regular fridge are among Johnson & Johnson’s biggest strengths.

Pfizer’s vaccine initially required ultra-cold storage temperatures between -60 C and -80 C, though Health Canada recently said it could be stored in a regular freezer for up to 14 days. Moderna’s vaccine can also be stored at regular freezer temperatures while AstraZeneca can be stored in a fridge.

Chakrabarti says Johnson & Johnson’s product is conducive to large, mobile vaccine clinics that can be set up quickly to target populations in hard-hit communities, especially essential workers.

“You can transport the vaccine there and just boom, boom, boom, get it into people’s arms,” he said. “The timing doesn’t help — we really wanted to start (vaccinating) essential workers as quickly as possible … But it’s something you can do (easily) with J&J.”

Chakrabarti added that Johnson & Johnson may also benefit from not having the string of confusing messaging surrounding it that AstraZeneca has had.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has set age recommendations on AstraZeneca three times. The latest recommendation is to pause the use of AstraZeneca in those under 55 due to rare blood clot links that were observed in Europe.

READ MORE: Trudeau says Johnson & Johnson vaccine faces production challenges

Omar Khan, an assistant professor in biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto, says Johnson & Johnson could slot into the void left by provinces not using AstraZeneca on those under 55.

“That (decision by NACI) effectively reduced our vaccine supply,” Khan said. “But with this we can make up that loss of supply for that population and hopefully get us back on track.”

The fact that Johnson & Johnson is already in use in the U.S. may give Canadians more confidence in it, Chakrabarti says.

The FDA authorized Johnson & Johnson on Feb. 27 for emergency use — just as it had for Pfizer and Moderna in December — but shipments to the U.S. were also affected by manufacturing problems early on. The bulk of vaccine use in the U.S. has been Pfizer and Moderna.

“It’s very good when you see other countries having experience with it,” he said, adding that a mountain of positive AstraZeneca data also exists from the U.K., as well as data from Israel on the high effectiveness of Pfizer.

WHAT KIND OF VACCINE TECHNOLOGY IS USED?

Unlike the mRNA used in Pfizer and Moderna’s products, Johnson & Johnson is a non-replicating viral vector vaccine similar to AstraZeneca’s.

That means it uses a different harmless virus, which can’t copy itself, as a vector to give our cells the instructions they need to make the coronavirus’s spike protein.

The immune system recognizes the protein and makes antibodies, which then allow us to fend off attack if exposed in the future.

Khan says it takes a couple weeks for the body to build up immunity with any of the vaccines, but those receiving Johnson & Johnson should especially take note of that.

“Yes, it’s one dose so people might say ‘one and done, ready to go,’ but you still need to give yourself the bare minimum two weeks,” he said. “Ideally, give yourself a month, and then you’ll have a higher level of protection.”

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Binche residents Doug Connors (left) with Ross Duncan and Paul Lewis were thrilled after a mission to rescue a moose stranded on Stuart Lake was successful Friday, April 2. (Photo submitted)
Daring moose rescue on Stuart Lake garners national attention

“I’m just saving an animal,” said Ross Duncan with Paul Lewis and Doug Connors

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Marcel Gagnon will be receiving an honorary degree this year from UNBC. (Photo submitted)
Lheidli T’enneh Nation elder to receive honorary degree from UNBC

Artist and advocate, Marcel Gagnon to be recognized June 25

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

Most Read