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What you should know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

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The first batch of 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine is ready for distribution across South Africa with immediate effect.

The Covid-19 vaccine is ready for distribution in SA. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mhize are getting the first jabs of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine on Wednesday.

This is what you need to know about the vaccine.

The first batch of 80 000 doses is being prepared for distribution across South Africa.

As this batch has been approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority under the Sisonke protocol, the vaccines will be rapidly dispatched to all provinces.

It is expected that most vaccination centres will be ready from Wednesday, February 17, to begin the vaccination programme.

Safety issues

This vaccine has been shown in extensive trials to be safe and efficacious and will protect our health-care workers from illness and death from Covid-19.

The vaccine has shown in human trials to be highly effective at preventing severe illness from a variant of the virus that emerged in South Africa in December, and has since appeared in at least 32 countries.

Prevention of severe disease

According to the Covid-19 phase 3 study on clinical-protocol, the vaccine candidate was 85% effective in preventing severe disease across all regions studied, 28 days after vaccination in all adults 18 years and older.

Efficacy against severe disease increased over time with no cases in vaccinated participants reported after day 49.

The Janssen Covid-19 vaccine candidate demonstrated complete protection against Covid-related hospitalisation and death, 28 days post-vaccination.

There was a clear effect of the vaccine on Covid-19 cases requiring medical intervention (hospitalisation, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, with no reported cases among participants who had received the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine, 28 days post-vaccination.

Vaccine efficiency

J&J’s adenovirus vector-based vaccine, developed by its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, reported 66% overall vaccine efficacy with a single dose after 28 days in a global Phase III trial with 43 783 participants.

However, efficacies varied across trial locations: 72% efficacy in the US, 66% in Latin America, and 57% in South Africa, the latter in which many cases were caused by the new Sars-CoV-2 variant B.1.351.