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

Melissa Milligan is working to build a disc golf course in Port Hardy. (Submitted photo)
Port Hardy’s disc golf survey results are in

138 people in total took the survey, with 94 per cent voting yes.

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations in Gold River area

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Mya Servatius and Marilyn May handing out gift baskets to seniors. (Michelle Tremblay photo)
NISS students practice kindness by giving gifts to seniors

This project wasn’t part of a class at NISS, or for any extra credit.

Port Hardy Fire Rescue map of controlled burning.
Controlled burn happening this weekend on Highland Drive

No unauthorized persons, including media, will be permitted within the “Hot Zone”.

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Most Read