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

The Dease Lake Airport is receiving $11-million in upgrades funded by the province, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and mining companies. (British Columbia Aviation Council)
Major upgrades coming to Dease Lake Airport

Airport to receive $11-million from the province, regional district and mining companies

Dianna Plouffe, right, with Mayor Gladys Atrill in front of Town Hall following the announcement she will be the new CAO> (Facebook photo)
Director of corporate services named Smithers CAO

Dianna Plouffe replaces Alan Harris who is retiring at the end of April

Mabel Todd, 83, of the Nak’azdli First Nation, leads a group of family members and advocates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as they walk along the so-called Highway of Tears in Witset. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Province, feds fund full cell service along ‘Highway of Tears’ following years of advocacy

A ‘critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies’ after at least 10 Indigenous women murdered, missing along the route

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 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

Volunteer Robbie McKnight works the screening table at the Coast Mountain College COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Smithers. (Deb Meissner photo)
UPDATE Smithers clinic expands vaccine eligibility to ages 55+

Community members born in 1966 or earlier can now register and will be notified when they can book

Vancouver police say eight people were arrested Wednesday after anti-pipeline protesters blocked off both the entrances and exits to two buildings in the downtown core. (Instagram/Qtcatspictureclub)
8 people arrested after anti-pipeline protestors chain themselves to Vancouver buildings

Cst. Tania Visintin said demonstrators caused ‘a serious safety hazard’ downtown for hours Wednesday

Jamie Coutts recorded a man following her around downtown Vancouver for a half-hour on Wednesday, March 18. (Instagram screenshot/Iammjammbamm)
Man charged in alleged high-profile Vancouver stalking case that went viral online

Man faces five other charges including criminal harassment and assault with a weapon

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

A sea lion swims past the window of an empty viewing area Vancouver Aquarium is pictured Thursday, September 10, 2020. The Vancouver Aquarium has had to close its doors to the public due to the lack of visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
U.S.-based theme park company buys Vancouver Aquarium

Aquarium had to shut its doors in September due to COVID pandemic

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

A deep cut on a humpback whale is shown in this recent handout photo in the Vancouver area. A conservation organization is warning boaters to be extra careful to prevent further harm to an injured humpback whale swimming in the Vancouver area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Ocean Wise, Vanessa Prigollini *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Boaters urged to use caution around hurt humpback off Vancouver

Ocean Wise says watchers first noticed the wound 3 days ago and believe it was caused by a vessel strike

Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year

Most Read