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Health Canada decision imminent on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Last Updated Mar 4, 2021 at 2:38 pm EDT

In this photo illustration a close-up of a hand holding a medical syringe in front of the Johnson and Johnson logo. (Photo Illustration by Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Canada could be adding to its COVID-19 vaccine arsenal very soon as federal regulators make changes that could help fight variants.

At a vaccine briefing on Thursday, Dr. Supriya Sharma with Health Canada says a decision on the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is imminent.

“The review of the Johnson & Johnson submission is going very well,” said Sharma. “It’s progressing and we are expected to have that completed in the next few days, or within the next seven days or so.”

This would mark another significant step since the J&J vaccine only requires one dose, while the three other approved vaccines require two. One dose is 85 percent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, according to a massive study that spanned three continents.

This vaccine does not require extremely cold storage facilities.

In the U.S., the shot has shown 72 percent effectiveness at preventing the virus and was found to be 86 percent effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19, according to data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

RELATED: Most Canadians aged 16-and-up could be vaccinated by end of June

Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccines which require two doses are 95 percent effective.

Although weaker in terms of clinical trials and percentages, Johnson & Johnson’s protection is “not the weaker vaccine,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Chief Medical Advisor, said last week.

Sharma says Canadians can also be confident in recent decisions to stretch out the interval between the first and second doses of vaccine to allow more people to get their first shot.

“Definitely the messaging would be simpler if we had one set of data and we had one message and it never changed but that’s not what science does,” she said.

“We want to make sure that we have all that information, we apply it properly, and we make those decisions.”

A top infectious disease expert in Ontario has expressed a lot of optimism about the potential of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine being approved in Canada.

Doctor Isaac Bogoch said recently it could be a gamechanger in our vaccination efforts.

“It requires just conventional refrigeration and it’s a one-and-done shot,” Bogoch said. “Imagine how fast and how much easier you could vaccinate a population if you didn’t have to bring people back for a second dose. That’s a big deal.”

Canada earlier today received its first 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use across the country.

Earlier, Health Canada announced it will fast-track the approval process for any modifications being made to already approve covid vaccines if these changes help strengthen the shots against the several variants that are spreading around the world.

Canada is taking this step alongside allies in the UK, Australia, Switzerland, and Singapore.

The U.S. recently greenlit the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as treatment efforts dramatically ramp up under the Biden administration.

On Tuesday, Biden said that the U.S. expects to take delivery of enough coronavirus vaccines for all adult Americans by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, as his administration announced that drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.

Meanwhile, the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) has extended the interval between first and second doses to four months. If provinces take that advice then around 80 percent of Canadians above the age of 16 could get their first shot by the end of June.

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