Canada has received the “last piece” of manufacturing data needed to decide whether to approve the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser says.
In an interview with Global News on Monday, Dr. Surpiya Sharma said the review of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine candidate is “progressing very well.”
“There was a last piece of some of the manufacturing data that we were expecting an we received that on Saturday,” she said.
Sharma said Health Canada is “expecting to make a final decision within the next couple of weeks.”
If approved, the vaccine would become the fourth green-lit for use in Canada.
The agency has already approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZenca to protect against the novel coronavirus.
To date, all of the vaccines approved require two shots, administered some weeks apart.
However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is what is known as a ‘viral vector vaccine,’ requires only one dose.
Sharma said the advantage of this vaccine is that it is can be stored in a refrigerator, instead of at freezing temperatures.
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“So that makes it easier to transport in terms of the rural communities,” she said. “Certainly if the vaccine is only one dose, the logistics make it, that’s much easier.”
Sharma also said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be helpful because health officials would not have to book follow-up appointments with people to administer a second shot.
Sharma said Health Canada is looking into “where that one dose vaccine would fit into the overall suite of options that we have available.”
Canada has ordered 10 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses.
It also has the option of ordering up to 28 million more doses if necessary. The majority of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.
U.S. Approves Johnson & Johnson vaccine
The United States on Saturday approved the Johnson & Johnson shot. The country’s Federal Drug Administration (FDA) said the vaccine was found to offer strong protection against serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths.
One dose was 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.
Asked why Canada’s approval process for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is taking longer than the FDA, Sharma said all of the regulators are “all working together internationally,” and “sharing best practices.”
“So certainly we’re working cooperatively,” she said. “But, you know, we also need to be able to make our own decisions for our own populations to make sure that we know the data, we know what the implications would be for Canadians.”
— With files from The Associated Press