COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved: What 66 per cent effectiveness really means for Canadians

Elisabetta Bianchini
·3 min read

Health Canada has authorized the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Janssen Inc., the first single-dose vaccine approved for use in Canada.

The vaccine has been found to be 66 per cent effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19.

A vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital, Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Bay Shore, N.Y. Janssen Pharmaceuticals is a division of Johnson & Johnson. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital, Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Bay Shore, N.Y. Janssen Pharmaceuticals is a division of Johnson & Johnson. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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Dr. Supriya Sharma, senior medical advisor with Health Canada, stressed that this does not mean that anyone who gets this vaccine has a 34 per cent chance of contracting the virus. For any of the vaccines available, an individual's chances of getting COVID-19 are "greatly reduced" and they are all effective in keeping Canadians out of hospitals and preventing death from the virus.

"The thing that has sort of threatened us the most about COVID-19 is its ability to kill and all of the vaccines, for all intents and purposes, squash that," Dr. Sharma said.

This vaccine can be stored and transported at refrigerated temperatures for at least three months, from 2 C to 8 C. It is currently authorized people over 18 years old but Dr. Sharma said a clinical trial for individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 has been authorized by Health Canada.

This vaccine also provides an "acceptable" level of efficacy in al regions against COVID-19 variants that have been identified.

"Overall with variants, we have to think about what that's going to mean overall," Dr. Sharma said. "Viruses mutate, they are designed to try to stay alive and to replicate, and not kill their host...and we usually see dominant strains sort of a bit of the survival of the fittest."

"I don't know where we're going to be with respect to the vaccines and the variants in the future. I do know we're monitoring very closely, we're looking at which ones might actually change the efficacy of the vaccines. So far, the ones that we have are showing good efficacy against them."

In the trial over 40,000 people, half received the vaccine and half received the placebo. A total of 464 individuals developed moderate to severe illness, 348 had received the placebo while 116 had receive the vaccine. A total of five death occurred, all in the group that did not receive the vaccine.

Health experts and other Canadians took to social media to react to the news.

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Dr. Sharma confirmed that the only other vaccine currently under review is the Novavax vaccine, but there is still "a fair amount of information" that is expected to be received on both the manufacturing and clinical data. There is also a Phase 3 clinical trial that is ongoing and Dr. Sharma said is not expected to report out until potentially the beginning of April.

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