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UK approves Janssen as its 4th vaccine

By Ricky Browne

The UK has given approval for what will be its fourth Covid-19 vaccine – the Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) single dose jab.

The US vaccine was approved today by UK regulator the Medicines and Healthare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The World health Organization (WHO) had already approved the vaccine for emergency use on March 21, as well as in Europe and the United States and some other countries.

In the US, more than eight million doses of the Janssen vaccine have already been administered.

It is the only single-dose Covid -19 vaccine currently approved by the WHO. It is believed to be 85 percent effective according to trials.

A decision was taken in the UK that people under the age of 40 would be better off taking a vaccine that wasn’t AstraZeneca, so this vaccine could help to vaccinate younger people. The three other vaccines available in the UK are the Oxford AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – which as the most recent of the three, started to be administered back in April.  

VACCINATION RATES

The UK has ordered 20 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which should be available later this year.. Already more than 38 million people in the UK have received their first vaccination—or more than 56 percent of the population. Of those people, more than 24 million of those have received two and are fully vaccinated or more than 36 percent of the population.

Israel is still the leader in having the largest percentage of its population vaccinated – currently standing at 62.9 percent. But the UK is second with a rate of 56.5 percent. Actually, if Wales is viewed on its own, it is top country, with 67 percent of its population vaccinated.

Wales is top-ranked

Just behind the UK is Mongolia, followed by Canada, Chile, Bahrain and Hungary. The United States, which previously ranked just behind the UK now stands in 8th place with 49.55 percent of its population vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

This compares to a world average of 10 percent who have been vaccinated with at least one dose, and 5.2 percent who have been fully vaccinated. A country like Jamaica is behind the curve, where only about 5.1 percent of the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, and only 0.5 percent has been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

All in all, the UK is reported to have ordered more than 500 million doses of seven different vaccines. With a population of just over 66 million people, that would be enough to give each person 7.5 doses. Meanwhile, most of the world’s population is nowhere near getting even one vaccine – increasing the risk of the virus continuing to produce variants, such as the current ‘Indian’ variant that is growing quickly in much of the UK.

Currently in the UK  people in their 30s are being vaccinated.

JANSSEN ADVANTAGES

Apart from being a single-dose vaccine, the Janssen vaccine also has the advantages of not requiring the same kind of cold-chain management required by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It shares that trait with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, as both can be stored at normal refrigerated temperatures, rather than the ultra-cold temperatures required by the two mRNA vaccines.

The Janssen shot is also far cheaper than those two vaccines – both because a dose is cheaper,  and also because only one does is required.

At about US$10 for a Janssen vaccine, it works out to be a little more expensive than the AstraZeneca, which even with the requirement for two shots would still cost less.

AstraZeneca is charging for the cost of production without adding a profit, which helps to keep the price down to really low levels.

But it works out a lot cheaper than both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – which cost about US$20 for the first, and up to about $38 for the Moderna. You then need to double that cost, as two shots are required.

The UK has now ordered 20 million Belgium-made Janssen vaccines – which would be enough to vaccinate 20 million people, and should be available later this year. Though at the rate of vaccination currently in the UK, the country could be fully-vaccinated by then – or at least as near to it as it is likely to get.

The Janssen vaccine uses the same type of technology as the AstraZeneca, so there could be  similar issues for younger people. It is likely to be used as a booster jab for care home residents ahead of winter according to news reports.

Currently, in the US anyway, the Janssen vaccine is considered fine for people above the age of 16, but the company is seeking to drop that authorization to the children who are older than 12. Back in April the US, South Africa and the EU temporarily halted the vaccines use over concerns with extremely rare blood clots. But it was decided that the advantages of the vaccine greatly outweighed the minimal risk.

NEXT IN LINE

The next vaccine in line for UK approval could be the American Novavax vaccine, which requires two shots and can be kept at regular fridge temperatures.

It has been reported that the UK has ordered 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, which are to be produced in the UK – and is believed to be 89.3 percent effective.

Also in line, if it is approved, is a vaccine from French company Valneva, which is to be made in Scotland.

Two others in line are the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine and the CureVac vaccine.

There are several other vaccines currently in use around the globe, which haven’t yet been approved in the UK. One is the Russian Sputnik V.

A view of The Seychelles

Another is the Chinese Sinopharm. That vaccine has been used heavily in the small Indian Ocean nation of The Seychelles, along with AstraZeneca. Recently Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan told CNN that the success of both vaccines was impressive.

Actually, with a population of just 97,625 people, the Seychelles has a higher vaccination rate than anywhere else – including Israel and the UK. But it usually isn’t considered in the stats because of its small population. The vaccination rate in the Seychelles is currently 71.31 percent, according to Our World in Data.

Of those who were vaccinated, 57 percent received a Sinopharm vaccine – most of which were donated by the UAE, and the remaining 43 percent received the Oxford AstraZeneca.

But a recent surge in cases, despite the high rate of vaccination, has caused people to question the true efficacy of the Chinese-produced vaccine. The vaccine was approved for emergency use by the WHO earlier this month. It is only the fifth vaccine to get that approval from WHO, the others being Pfizer, AstraZeneca Janssen and the Moderna vaccines.

Meanwhile, other vaccines are still being worked on – including four from Cuba. But they have not yet left the testing stage.

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