UK authorizes Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine

UK authorizes Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine
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The United Kingdom on Friday gave the green light to begin distributing Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine for residents ages 18 and older. 

The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency announced in a press release that it had granted regulatory approval for the vaccine, with agency chief executive June Raine saying that the shot had met the country’s standards “on quality, safety and effectiveness.”

“This is encouraging news for the public and the healthcare sector,” Raine added in the statement. “We now have four safe and effective vaccines approved to help protect us from COVID-19.”

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The U.K. previously authorized for emergency use the two-dose shots from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford University and Moderna. 

The health agency said it found the Johnson & Johnson shot to have an overall efficacy rate of 67 percent at preventing all COVID-19 infections, and that it is 85 percent effective at preventing severe disease or hospitalization from the virus. 

The authorization comes as the U.K. is facing concerns about a potential new rise in infections, especially with additional reported cases of the more transmissible variant of the virus first identified in India. 

The U.K.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is expected to determine how the Johnson & Johnson doses will be administered to its population, with The Associated Press noting that the country’s relatively rapid vaccine rollout may allow the shot by J&J subsidiary Janssen to be used in plans for a booster program in the fall. 

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement Friday, “As Janssen is 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.” 

The AP reported that the U.K. government has amended its 2020 order of 30 million Johnson & Johnson doses to 20 million. 

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Out of the U.K.’s total population of roughly 67 million people, nearly 58 percent have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, with 35 percent fully vaccinated with two shots, according to British government data

The U.K. has a goal of offering at least one dose to every adult by the end of July. 

The authorization of the Johnson & Johnson shot comes a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the so-called Indian variant has begun to spread rapidly, with Public Health England recording nearly 7,000 cases of the strain, an increase from the 3,500 reported last week. 

Hancock said in a Thursday briefing that it was estimated that as much as 75 percent of new coronavirus infections in the U.K. were a result of the Indian variant.