'Every new, safe and effective tool against Covid-19 is another step closer to controlling the pandemic,' WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday approved the Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for the one-shot dose to be used as part of the United Nation's international vaccine distribution effort.
"Every new, safe and effective tool against Covid-19 is another step closer to controlling the pandemic," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
"But the hope offered by these tools will not materialize unless they are made available to all people in all countries. I urge governments and companies to live up to their commitments and to use all solutions at their disposal to ramp up production so that these tools become truly global public goods, available and affordable to all, and a shared solution to the global crisis," the WHO chief added.
It is the third coronavirus vaccine after the two-shot regimens of Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca to receive backing from the WHO, and the first requiring just a single injection.
According to a report, the go-ahead signal from WHO, which comes a day after the European Union approved the shot, means that countries that receive shots through the UN's COVAX effort, which promotes equitable distribution of vaccines, could cite the new endorsement in the distribution of the shot.
J&J: Single-dose regimen vaccine
The vaccine from Johnson &Johnson is the first to be listed by WHO as a single dose regimen, which should facilitate vaccination logistics in all countries. "The ample data from large clinical trials shared by the company also shows that the vaccine is effective in older populations," according to the global health body.
"To expedite listing of the vaccine, WHO and a team of assessors from all regions adopted what is called an 'abbreviated assessment' based on outcomes of the EMA review, and evaluation of quality, safety and efficacy data focused on low- and the middle-income country needs. The WHO assessment also considered suitability requirements such as cold chain storage and risk management plans to be implemented in countries," the health body's statement read.
WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward said that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which does not require an ultra cold chain, was "even better suited to some of the countries that are worst-hit, affected by the pandemic".
COVAX, co-run with the Gavi vaccine alliance, has an agreement for more than 500 million doses of the J&J vaccine, Aylward said.
While the vaccine needs to be stored at -20 degrees, which may prove challenging in some environments, it can be kept for three months at 2-8°C and it has a long shelf life of two years.
Studies have shown that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66% effective in protecting any cases of moderate to severe illness and 85% effective against severe cases of COVID-19. It completely prevented hospitalizations and death four weeks after inoculation.
J&J's chief scientist Paul Stoffels told Reuters that the company expects to produce up to 3 billion doses here of the vaccine next year, after previously pledging to deliver 1 billion globally by the end of 2021.
WHO has also listed the Pfizer/BioNTech, Astrazeneca-SK Bio and Serum Institute of India vaccines for emergency use.
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