Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the EU.
Authorisation for the vaccine – referred to by some as “one and done” – came after drugs regulator the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended it for adults.
The bloc has had a slow start in rolling out vaccines compared with the UK, and its president Ursula von der Leyen has been criticised for not acting fast enough.
On Thursday, she tweeted that “more safe and effective vaccines” were now heading to Europe.
The Johnson & Johnson jab is the fourth to be endorsed for use in the European Union after those from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna.
Some 200 million shots have been ordered, with an option for millions more, but it’s unclear exactly when they will be delivered.
America, Canada and Bahrain have also approved the jab, while South Africa is doing an expedited review.
The UK has ordered 30 million doses, pending approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), with the option of millions more.
In a 44,000-person trial, the vaccine was found to be 66% effective overall at preventing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 four weeks after inoculation.
For preventing serious illness only, it was 85% effective.
As well as being one shot, it only needs to be kept at fridge temperature, making its storage, distribution and handling much easier.
And costing as little as $10 (£7) a dose, it is cheaper than most vaccines – coming in at about the same as two shots of the AstraZeneca option.
Johnson & Johnson said it worked across multiple variants of coronavirus, including some effectiveness against the South African variant.
The European regulator said in a statement on Thursday that the vaccine was about 67% effective overall.
It said most side effects were usually mild or moderate and stopped within a couple of days. The most were pain at the injection site, tiredness, muscle pain, headache and nausea.
It’s also hoped that having a one-shot vaccine can help speed up vaccination in poorer countries, and Johnson & Johnson has applied for an emergency use sign-off from the World Health Organization.
The firm is hoping to make about one billion doses this year but has had production delays in the the US and Europe.
Rival companies have recently been signed up to help produce the vaccine and boost supplies.
French company Sanofi said last month that it would be able to make about 12 million doses of the vaccine at one of its sites.
The news on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes on the same day as a number of European counties – including Denmark, Norway, Austria, Italy and Iceland – suspended the AstraZeneca jab after reports of blood clots in vaccinated people.
The EMA is launching an investigation but at present there is no firm evidence to suggest the two are linked and incidents of clotting have not been reported in the UK.
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