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Johnson & Johnson vaccine shows 66% efficacy for moderate and severe Covid-19

Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine has shown 66 per cent efficacy at preventing moderate and severe Covid-19, according to interim data published from a phase-3 trial of the first single-dose vaccine.

The efficacy rate reported on Friday by the world’s largest healthcare company is lower than that of jabs that are already authorised from BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca. The rate is also not directly comparable because the trial excluded mild cases of the disease.

The vaccine showed some protection against the 501.V2 variant, which first emerged in South Africa, although efficacy was 57 per cent in trials conducted there. The jab showed an efficacy rate of 72 per cent in the US, and 66 per cent in Latin America.

Alex Gorsky, J&J’s chief executive, called the results a “critical milestone”. The company intends to file for a US emergency use authorisation in early February and, if granted, will immediately be able to ship vaccines.

“Our goal all along has been to create a simple, effective solution for the largest number of people possible, and to have maximum impact to help end the pandemic,” he said.

The vaccine was 85 per cent effective at preventing severe Covid-19. Twenty-eight days after the jab, it offered “complete protection” from hospitalisation and death. Protection was consistent across age groups, including the over-60s, the company said.

The trial included almost 44,000 participants and accrued 468 symptomatic cases of Covid-19, across both groups that received the placebo and those that received the vaccine. No significant safety concerns were reported.

J&J has promised to price the inoculation on a “non-profit basis” for the duration of the pandemic — about $10 a shot. The US, UK and EU have struck deals for the J&J vaccine of at least 100m, 30m and 200m doses, respectively.

As countries grapple with supply shortages, the J&J jab could help expand supply in a simplified form with just one shot. It does not require ultra-cold temperatures for transportation and storage, and can be kept at between 2C and 8C for three months.

Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer, said it would potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from serious and fatal outcomes.

“A one-shot vaccine is considered by the World Health Organization to be the best option in pandemic settings, enhancing access, distribution and compliance.”

The results come after Novavax and Moderna announced plans for trials of vaccines designed to tackle the 501. V2 variant, after their jabs appeared to be less effective against it. J&J did not say it would seek to reformulate its vaccine, despite data also suggesting it is less effective.

Novavax reported an efficacy rate of 89 per cent in a UK phase-3 trial and said late on Thursday it was likely to file for authorisation in the UK by early February.

Europe is currently at loggerheads with AstraZeneca over supply of its vaccine after manufacturing problems prompted the drugmaker to disclose it would supply fewer doses in the first quarter of the year.


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