The UK government on Friday authorised use of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot coronavirus vaccine, making it the fourth such jab to receive British approval to prevent Covid-19.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory agency, the UK drugs watchdog, had reviewed data available for the J&J vaccine and concluded it met the “expected standards” of safety, quality and effectiveness.
The UK has secured 20m doses of the vaccine, and deliveries are expected to arrive “from later this year”, said the government, noting it was preparing for a potential booster programme to prevent the spread of coronavirus variants.
“The Janssen vaccine will be another weapon in our arsenal to beat this pandemic,” said vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi. “We are doing everything we can to vaccinate all adults as quickly as possible and I encourage everybody to come forward for a jab as soon as they are eligible.”
The UK is racing to vaccinate as many people as possible as cases of a variant first identified in India surge in hotspots across the country.
The vaccines currently in use in the UK — BioNTech/Pfizer, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna — are administered in two separate doses given up to 12 weeks apart.
The J&J vaccine involves one shot. In trials, it has proved 67 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infection and 85 per cent in stopping severe disease or hospitalisation. It has also shown efficacy against variants of concern like the one first identified in South Africa.
The J&J vaccine has already been approved by US and EU regulators and by the World Health Organization.
But use of the vaccine, which deploys the same adenoviral vector technology as AstraZeneca’s, was briefly halted in the US and the EU this year after a series of rare and serious blood clots were observed after vaccination.
Deployment has since resumed, with age restrictions in place in certain countries.
The UK government said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, an advisory body, will submit updated advice on how the J&J shot should be used before doses become available.
The government also said it had revised down its earlier order for 30m doses of the vaccine.
J&J, which has experienced manufacturing problems in the US and the EU, is conducting trials of a double dose version of its vaccine.
The company has pledged to sell the vaccine at cost for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.