Johnson & Johnson one-shot COVID jab wins U.K. approval

The U.K. cleared a Covid-19 vaccine for use from Johnson & Johnson, the first single-dose shot to be authorized in Britain against the disease.

J&J’s vaccine was given the green light for people ages 18 and over, the country’s drug regulator said Friday in a statement. The authorization from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency gives Britain a fourth shot in its arsenal, though its use may be initially limited given more than half the population has already received one vaccine dose.

The shot has been watched closely as the only one to reach advanced trials testing a single-dose regimen. Britain co-funded the company’s global clinical studies and has secured 20 million doses of the shot. The U.S. approved the vaccine at the end of February and the European Union followed suit in March.

First deliveries are expected to arrive later this year, according to the government. Britain amended its original order from 30 million doses with its immunization program advancing swiftly.

As a single-dose vaccine, “it will play an important role in the months to come as we redouble our efforts to encourage everyone to get their jabs and potentially begin a booster program later this year,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement.

J&J shares rose 0.8% in trading before U.S. markets opened.

Uptake of the shot has been restrained since it was linked to very rare blood clots and the U.S. temporarily paused its use. The European Medicines Agency confirmed in April that there was a possible relationship, but maintained that the benefits outweighed the risks. Similar clots have been linked to the AstraZeneca Plc Covid-19 vaccine, which is also an adenovirus-based shot.

J&J’s vaccine reported an efficacy rate of 66% against moderate and severe Covid-19 in January, a number that was pulled down by the variant first identified in South Africa. In U.S. trials, the vaccine was found to be 72% effective. It was 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death. J&J is also testing a two-dose regimen of the shot.

The company has faced supply issues, particularly in the EU. Production at an Emergent BioSolutions Inc. facility in Baltimore was also stopped after it was learned that the staff conflated materials for the J&J vaccine with Astra’s shot, which was also being made on the premises. The error led the site to discard 15 million doses worth of an ingredient used in the J&J vaccine.

Like the vaccine from Astra and the University of Oxford, the J&J shot can be stored and transported at refrigerator temperatures, making it more accessible to use than some others.

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