The first one-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has been authorized by Health Canada, making it the fourth vaccine that can be administered to Canadians.
Health Canada is now the first major regulator to have approved four different COVID-19 vaccines for use, said chief medical adviser at Health Canada Dr. Supriya Sharma during a briefing announcing the approval.
The authorization follows “an independent and thorough scientific review for safety, efficacy, and quality,” Sharma said.
Canada can now use the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in its ongoing mass vaccination campaign, largely viewed as a key pillar in overcoming the nearly year-long pandemic.
“This last year hasn’t been easy, but we are going to get through this. This week alone almost 400,000 Canadians got a COVID-19 shot. Next week, it’ll be the turn of hundreds of thousands more,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.
“Your turn is coming. Millions of doses are on the way, deliveries have been ramping up, and they’ll ramp up even more in April. We will continue to work around the clock, and make sure Canadians get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
Canada’s federal health agency has been assessing the viral vector Johnson & Johnson shot since Nov. 30, and like the AstraZeneca vaccine given the green light last Friday, it will be logistically easier to administer as it can be shipped at temperatures between two- to eight-degrees Celsius and stored in those refrigerated conditions for at least three months.
With the approvals of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Canada has doubled the number of vaccine options at its disposal in the last week.
Vials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be kept for three hours at room temperature once the seal has been punctured, while it can stay stable if unopened for up to 12 hours.
“This is a game changer,” physician Dr. Lisa Salamon said in an interview on CTV News Channel. “Family doctors can give it to their patients; it can be given in pharmacies, public health units.”
Overall, in clinical trials involving approximately 43,000 participants, the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was shown to be 66 per cent effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, two weeks after vaccination.
As with other vaccines, Sharma said common side effects include pain and tenderness at the injection site, headache, muscle pain, fever, and chills. The majority of adverse reactions reported during the clinical trials were mild to moderate in severity, and resolved within a few days.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been approved for use in adults 18 years of age and older, and with nearly 20 per cent of the participants in clinical trials being 65 years of age and older, no difference in safety or efficacy was seen compared to the younger age groups.
Health Canada has also approved a clinical trial for the vaccine in children ages 12 to 17 that’s yet to recruit patients, while trials are underway with the other vaccines but do not have Canadian sites.
Dr. Sharma said that it’s possible that by the end of 2021 there will be answers around whether or not these shots are shown to work in youth.