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Single-dose Covid-19 vaccine from Janssen approved for use in UK and will join booster trial at Cambridge University Hospitals

A single-dose Covid-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has been approved for use in the UK and will join a study being run at Cambridge University Hospitals.

The UK government has ordered 20 millions doses after it was shown to be 67 per cent effective overall at preventing moderate to severe Covid-19.

Vials of the Janssen vaccine
Vials of the Janssen vaccine

It is believed to be 85 per cent effective in preventing severe disease or admission to hospital.

The vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical arm Janssen, is expected to be available in the UK towards the end of 2021.

Following its approval for use here by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), health secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is a further boost to the UK’s hugely successful vaccination programme, which has already saved over 13,000 lives, and means that we now have four safe and effective vaccines approved to help protect people from this awful virus.

“As Janssen is a single-dose vaccine, it will play an important role in the months to come as we redouble our efforts to encourage everyone to get their jabs and potentially begin a booster programme later this year.”

The vaccine is part of the UK’s Cov-Boost study, being run at 16 sites including Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) and led by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

The study is examining the effectiveness of a range of vaccines that could be used as a booster shot in the autumn. It is the world’s first study of the impact on the immune system of a third Covid-19 booster jab.

Cambridge University Hospitals is involved in the booster trial. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge University Hospitals is involved in the booster trial. Picture: Keith Heppell

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “This is very welcome news and another boost to our hugely successful vaccination programme.

“As we encourage everyone to get their jabs, the single-dose Janssen vaccine will play an important role in helping us protect people from the virus. When you get the call, get the jab.”

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is due to examine data on the Janssen jab and provide guidance on who should receive it.

Johnson & Johnson has said the vaccine works across multiple variants of coronavirus.

England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, has previously said doses of it could be used for hard-to-reach groups of people, in cases where recalling them a second jab is not always successful.

Like the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, the jab can be stored at normal fridge temperatures which means it could be used for distribution in places such as care homes.

The MHRA is believed to have held back from early approval of the vaccine following concerns raised in the US about a link to extremely rare blood clots.

Matt Hancock, health secretary
Matt Hancock, health secretary

The clots are similar to those seen in a very small proportion of people having the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

The European Medicines Agency said a warning in April about unusual blood clots with low blood platelet count should be added to the product information for Janssen’s vaccine. That came eight cases of blood clots in more than seven million people vaccinated in the US.

Belgium has suspended use of the Janssen vaccine for people under the age of 41 following a death from blood clots linked to the jab.

Many European countries are using the vaccine, but Denmark has also dropped it due to concerns over side-effects.

A clinical trial involving 43,783 people, published earlier this year, found the level of protection against moderate to severe Covid-19 infection was 72 per cent in the United States arm of the trial. It was 66 per cent in the Latin American arm of the trial, and 57 per cent in the South African arm, where a mutant variant of the virus has been dominating.

The overall efficacy from clinical trials combined was put at 67 per cent.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The Janssen vaccine will be another weapon in our arsenal to beat this pandemic.

“We are doing everything we can to vaccinate all adults as quickly as possible and I encourage everybody to come forward for a jab as soon as they are eligible.”

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said: “We now have four safe and effective vaccines approved to help protect us from Covid-19.

“Our work does not end here. We are continually monitoring all Covid-19 vaccines in use once they have been approved to ensure that the benefits in protecting people against the disease continue to outweigh any risks.

“The safety of the public will always come first – you can be absolutely sure of our commitment to this.”

Vaccines being trialled as boosters include those from Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, Valneva, Janssen and Curevac, and there will also be a control group.

The UK has secured access to 517 million doses of eight of the most promising Covid-19 vaccines:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech for 100 million doses – including the additional 60 million doses for the booster programme
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca for 100 million doses
  • Moderna for 17 million doses
  • Janssen for 30 million doses
  • Novavax for 60 million doses
  • Valneva for 100 million doses
  • GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur for 60 million doses
  • CureVac for 50 million doses

Thousands of volunteers are being recruited for a booster Covid-19 vaccine, with initial results expected in September. You can sign up on the NHS website.

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