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WHO authorizes Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine

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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday granted emergency use listing to a single-dose coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, marking the fourth jab cleared to rollout among developing countries through a global initiative called COVAX.

The WHO will convene an advisory group of experts next week to form recommendations for use of the vaccine, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said during a briefing Friday. 

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“We hope that this new vaccine will help to narrow vaccine inequalities and not deepen them,” Tedros said.

He added that the COVAX facility booked 500 million doses of the single-shot vaccine, and looks forward to receiving the vaccines as soon as possible, potentially by July. The director-general noted the COVAX initiative has delivered about 30 million doses of vaccine across 38 countries. 

Tedros noted an inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines presents the largest threat to lifting the world out of the pandemic, adding that 76% of some 335 million doses have been administered in just ten countries.

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Johnson & Johnson previously announced its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 72% effective in preventing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 in the U.S, but fell to 66% in a larger trial conducted worldwide. The results stem from a Phase 3 ENSEMBLE clinical trial, which involved 43,783 participants.

J&J’s vaccine was created using an adenovirus rather than mRNA technology seen in other recently approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. It also further eases logistics with just a single dose and with storage capability in refrigerator temperatures.

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