Exclusive: Single-shot Covid vaccine could be weeks away as regulators start approval process

Christopher Hope
·2-min read
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored long-term at standard fridge temperatures, which 'offers logistical and practical advantages' - Johnson & Johnson/Handout/via Reuters
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored long-term at standard fridge temperatures, which 'offers logistical and practical advantages' - Johnson & Johnson/Handout/via Reuters

A single-shot vaccine to combat Covid in Britain could be just weeks away, with regulators set to begin the approval process this week.

Ministers are expecting the Johnson & Johnson jab – which has been authorised in the US for emergency use – to start formal regulatory approval in the coming days. The UK has ordered 30 million doses, the US 100 million and Canada 38 million.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which must carry out the checks for the UK, did not respond to a request for a comment.

The development came as reports emerged that just one shot of the Pfizer or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of being admitted to hospital by more than 90 per cent.

Public health officials have briefed ministers on the new results, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.

Health sources said the jab, developed by Johnson & Johnson's vaccines division Janssen, was not yet being considered by the MHRA for formal approval – a process that normally takes less than two weeks, based on the timelines for Pfizer and Astra Zeneca's jabs.

A senior Government source said the MHRA formal process was "very likely" to start this week. The Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment.

A department source said: "We are working with them to complete the rolling review process and we look forward to receiving more data from them as soon as possible."

The US government on Saturday authorised Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, enabling millions more Americans to be vaccinated in the coming weeks

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the third authorised in the United States, following ones from Pfizer and Moderna, both of which require two doses.

Joe Biden, the US president, said: "We're going to use every conceivable way to expand manufacturing of the vaccine... and make even more rapid progress."

Johnson & Johnson stressed that its vaccine was proven to work with a single shot and could be stored long-term at standard fridge temperatures, which "offers logistical and practical advantages".

On Saturday, South Africa received its second consignment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The country of almost 59 million people, which has seen nearly 50,000 succumb to the virus, has been widely criticised for its slow procurement of vaccines and lack of strategy.

Zweli Mkhize, the health minister, said the second tranche of Johnson & Johnson vaccines had arrived at OR Tambo International airport.

The majority of initial doses received two weeks ago have been administered to more than 63,600 healthcare workers since vaccinations began 11 days ago.