The European Medicines Agency has today authorised US company Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose Covid-19 vaccine. It is the fourth Covid vaccine approved for use in the EU.
The vaccine, which has already been approved in the US, can be stored in a regular fridge for up to three months and requires just one dose. The other three vaccines approved for use in the EU, those of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, require two doses.
The EU has ordered 200million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine - which will be delivered over the course of 2021 - with an option to purchase another 200million.
France is set to receive 30million doses this year. As only one dose of the vaccine is required, that would mean full vaccination against Covid-19 for 30 million people.
France should receive eight million doses by the end of June, Prime Minister Jean Castex stated during a January press conference.
According to France’s vaccination campaign schedule, it is aiming to begin rolling out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April this year.
As the government had already factored in the vaccine to its campaign strategy, its approval will not necessarily speed up the vaccination rollout, but it will keep it on track.
And while the first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are expected to be delivered by April 1, that is not set in stone.
As of yesterday (March 10), the company had not sent delivery schedules to EU countries, Politico reported.
The US company has told the EU that it is facing “supply issues” that may hinder the first delivery of 55 million doses, set to arrive in the second quarter of the year, news agency Reuters reported.
German MEP Peter Liese has said that the first doses might not arrive until mid-April, Politico reported.
The developers of the three other Covid vaccines that have so far been approved for use in the EU have faced complications with the production and distribution of doses. This has led to shortages and in part explains the slow roll-out of vaccinations in France.
The French government is aiming to step up the speed of its vaccination campaign but has struggled with a lack of doses. A delay or an issue with the delivery of Johnson & Johnson doses will further slow down France’s roll-out.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is more than 80% effective against severe forms of Covid-19, falling to 66% for symptomatic cases that do not require hospitalisation.
This is less than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which are 94.5% and 94% effective respectively. The latest studies show that the AstraZeneca vaccine is 76% effective after one dose, rising to 82% if the second dose is given 12 weeks later.
There are still questions over the length of immunity that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will give.
Dr Cecil Czerkinsky, an immunologist at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), said, “it is not known how long the protection of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine lasts in the medium term”.
He told news website Le HuffPost that a single-shot job could mean “an immune response that’s slower to develop, lower intensity and shorter duration of protection than the [two-dose] vaccinations.
A trial to test the efficacy of delivering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in two doses was launched in France in February.