Local optimisim as one-dose COVID-19 vaccine moves forward
LONDON, ONT. -- Johnson & Johnson announced Friday they will soon be ready to provide a one-shot vaccine, although at slightly lower efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The news has epidemiology experts excited for the addition.
“These new releases that have come out is what we normally get from vaccines. These are the types of protection we typically expect,” says Eric Arts, Canada Research Chair in HIV Pathogenesis and Viral Control at Western University.
J & J’s completed its third trial and is reporting an average of 66 per cent effectiveness of preventing moderate and severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Those numbers vary in different parts of the world, but may be a better option for less at-risk populations
“Every time we see a COVID vaccine proving to be effective it’s really a miracle. This offers more and more back up in case there is some kind of supply issue, with the two approved vaccines,” says Middlesex-London Health Unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie.
“Or perhaps there’s a new variant that’s spreading where one of the vaccines could be adjusted to cover the new variants. It’s really good news that we have another company making an effective vaccine.”
“What we want is protection from disease, severe disease and mortality,” adds Arts. “That’s really what’s important in this case. And Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine provides that. At very high levels.”
Premier Doug Ford expressed his disappointment in the scaling down of shipments of the two approved vaccines and is urging the federal government to take steps to get the new vaccine approved.
“We need to explore every avenue possible, no matter if it's asking Health Canada to speed up the approvals of the J&J, Johnson and Johnson vaccine, or the AstraZeneca. We need the approval, as quickly as possible. Pfizer has let us down tremendously.”
That could happen within weeks, but Mackie says the data from Johnson & Johnson has to be checked before it can be approved.
“You need multiple reviewers, multiple scientists with different backgrounds to approve those applications. If the data is there, then it’s just a matter of bringing the people to the table, and if that can be done quicker, so much the better.”
The biggest benefit of the J & J vaccine is that it will only require one dose to reach that efficacy and that it won’t require special cooling conditions, but Arts says the trial also benefited from timing.
“The fact the infection rates were so much higher when they were running the trial. And when you want to run a good phase 3 clinical trial you need high infection rates, because if you don’t get your controls don’t become infected to compare to your vaccinated individuals you don’t have the same strength in the data.”
The data released Friday was preliminary, and the company expects to apply to the FDA in the United States for approval within weeks, but there is no word on when approval will be sought from Health Canada.