WASHINGTON/ NEW BRUNSWICK: The United States of America (USA) has authorized Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, adding a third jab to its medical toolbox to fight one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
One dose was 85 percent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, according to a study that spanned three continents protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where one of the coronavirus variants of most concern is spreading.
“The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States,” said the US regulator’s acting director Janet Woodcock.
Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states could begin as early as Monday.
US President Joe Biden hailed the authorization of the third vaccine, but cautioned Americans against celebrating too soon.
“Things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread,” he said in a statement, urging people to continue washing their hands, wearing masks, and maintaining social distancing.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable,” he said.
‘As many shots in as many arms as we can’
In large clinical trials, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s efficacy against severe disease was 85.9 percent in the US, 81.7 percent in South Africa, and 87.6 percent in Brazil. Overall, among about 44,000 participants across all regions, the efficacy against severe COVID-19 was 85.4 percent, but it fell to 66.1 percent when including moderate forms of the disease.
Crucially, analyses of various demographic groups revealed no marked differences across age, race, or people with underlying conditions.
Dr Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health called the FDA’s emergency approval for the Johnson & Johnson shot “really good news”.
“The most important thing we can do right now is to get as many shots in as many arms as we can,” he said.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the third to be greenlit in the US after Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna’s were provisionally approved in December. (Int’l News Desk)