The decision comes on the back of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) authorisation, which was announced the day before. “Every new, safe and effective tool against Covid-19 is another step closer to controlling the pandemic,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But the hope offered by these tools will not materialise unless they are made available to all people in all countries. I urge governments and companies to live up to their commitments and to use all solutions at their disposal to ramp up production so that these tools become truly global public goods, available and affordable to all, and a shared solution to the global crisis.”
Single dose could speed up immunisation efforts
The vaccine from Janssen is the first to be listed by WHO as a single-dose regimen, which should facilitate vaccination logistics in all countries. The ample data from large clinical trials shared by the company also shows that the vaccine is effective in older populations.
To expedite listing of the vaccine, WHO and a team of assessors from all regions adopted what is called an ‘abbreviated assessment’ based on outcomes of the EMA review, and evaluation of quality, safety and efficacy data focused on low- and middle-income country needs. The WHO assessment also considered suitability requirements such as cold chain storage and risk management plans to be implemented in countries. While the vaccine needs to be stored at -20 degrees, which may prove challenging in some environments, it can be kept for three months at 2-8°C and it has a long shelf life of two years.
WHO will convene its Strategic Advisory Group on Immunization Experts next week to formulate recommendations on use of the vaccine. In the meantime, WHO continues to work with countries and COVAX partners to prepare for rollout and safety monitoring. The COVAX Facility has booked 500 million doses of the vaccine.