Monday. 04.03.2024

The European Union added a fourth Covid-19 vaccine to its arsenal on Thursday, when US manufacturer Johnson & Johnson's one-shot drug got the all-clear from the bloc's medicines regulator and executive arm.

"More safe and effective vaccines are coming to the market," European Commision President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted, as she announced that conditional market authorization had been granted.

"With the number of doses we ordered, we could vaccinate up to 200 million people in the EU," she added.

Shortly before, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended authorizing Johnson & Johnson's vaccine for use in all adults in the EU.

"Authorities across the EU will have another option to combat the pandemic and protect the lives and health of their citizens," EMA director Emer Cooke said in a statement published online.

Clinical trials involving more than 44,000 people in several countries showed the vaccine to have an efficacy rate of 67%, the EMA noted, adding that the drug met key criteria for safety and quality.

The EU has already pre-ordered up to 200 million doses for its population of 450 million, with the option to order another 200 million.

Conditional market authorization means the manufacturer will have to continue submitting data about long-term effects, even after getting the go-ahead.

Only one dose

In contrast to other EU-authorized jabs, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only needs to be administered once.

The doses can also be stored in a standard fridge, unlike the ultra-cold conditions required for some vaccines.

It is thought to be effective against virus variants as well.

However, according to media reports, deliveries of the shot to the 27-member bloc aren't expected to start for several weeks due to capacity issues.

Nonetheless, it now joins the ranks of green-lighted shots made by suppliers Pfizeer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Johnson & Johnson's jab was developed by a company subsidiary, Janssen in the Netherlands. The drug already got the green light in the United States.

On behalf of its member states, the EU executive branch has negotiated six contracts with pharmaceutical firms supplying shots against the deadly respiratory disease.

But delivery difficulties have seen EU states lag behind front-runners like Israel or Britain. Just 10% of EU citizens have had one shot so far, compared to 35% in Britain, figures from the University of Oxford's Our World in Data project show.

Covid-19 has claimed 876,000 lives in Europe so far, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. These figures also include Britain and Russia.

EU approves Johnson & Johnson's one-shot Covid-19 vaccine