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

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
East Sooke carpenter builds the ultimate tree fort

East Sooke Treehouse takes flight as an Airbnb

A native-to-B.C. wild queen bee (bombus melanopygus for those in the know) feeds on a periwinkle flower. (Submitted/Sarah Johnson, Native Bee Society of BC)
Wild bees need messy gardens to survive

The year-long nesting period makes habitat a primary concern for wild bees

Sidney’s Richard Talbot met Queen Elizabeth and the late Prince Philip (here with Princess Anne) during their 1971 visit to Victoria as British Columbia celebrated the centenary of joining Confederation. This picture shows the royals relaxing as they sail from Vancouver to Victoria on May 3, 1971. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Croke)
Sidney man who met late Prince Philip twice remembers his wicked sense of humour

Richard Talbot first met the Duke of Edinburgh in 1971, then again in 2015

A rider crosses a “skinny” on the newly opened trail known as 90s Jank, built within the Hartland system by volunteers with the South Island Mountain Bike Society. (Youtube/MTB Matt)
Mountain bikers celebrate first new trail in years on Saanich’s Mount Work

90s Jank trail a product of licence agreement between CRD and mountain bike society

Fire crews respond to the 3500-block of Blanshard Street in Saanich on April 16. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: BC Hydro crews repairing failed electrical equipment in Saanich

Vernon Avenue reopen to traffic following closure

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks games against Leafs postponed as team returns from COVID-19

The team has had 11 games postponed since an outbreak late last month

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Island woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop of Comox says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Coldstream students took over the Your Letters page in the April 9, 2021, edition of the Vernon Morning Star to offer advice to adults about COVID-19. Interior Health took notice and offered their praise. (Vernon Morning Star)
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Grade 2 and 3 classes from a North Okanagan elementary took over Letters page of this Black Press newspaper

Most Read