National vaccine panel suggests the J&J vaccine can be offered to those 30 and older

National vaccine panel suggests the J&J vaccine can be offered to those 30 and older
OTTAWA -- The national vaccine panel providing advice on how to prioritize the use of COVID-19 vaccines says that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be offered to Canadians aged 30 and older, similar to its latest guidance around the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is also suggesting that as a single-shot vaccine, in populations that are harder to schedule for a second dose. 

However, the vaccine is currently not cleared to be distributed in Canada.

Health Canada announced late Friday that it was holding the first 300,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that landed in Canada last week for further quality assurance checks after learning that an ingredient in the vaccine was produced at a problem-plagued vaccine manufacturing facility in the U.S. 

Health Canada said what while the final Janssen vaccines were manufactured at a different site located outside of the U.S., it needed to review the doses to ensure they meet quality standards before they are administered, something provinces were gearing up to do this week.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo—who is not a spokesperson for Health Canada—was the first federal official to speak publicly about the doses being held up. On Monday he told reporters that the agency continues to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on its investigation.

“The vaccine is sort of in a holding pattern. It s certainly being held in freezers in good condition and until obviously Health Canada does its due diligence. I can t give a timeline… I think we can all appreciate they want to do a good thorough job, as quickly as possible,” Njoo said.

Should the doses be cleared for use, NACI said Monday that adults aged 30 and older should be prioritized to receive them so long as they do not have any contraindications.

“Similar to the AstraZeneca vaccine, NACI weighed the benefits of the Janssen vaccine in saving lives, and protecting populations against serious complications of COVID-19, against the risk of developing VIITT [vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia],” NACI vice-chair Dr. Shelley Deeks said.

NACI issues guidance on the use of vaccines, but provinces and territories do not have to follow its recommendations.

On Monday, Deeks repeated the same caveat with Johnson & Johnson that she first offered in the latest advice around AstraZeneca: that if people did not want to wait for an mRNA vaccine they may opt to receive a viral vector shot if it is being offered to them.

Suggesting anyone opt to wait for a different vaccine than the first one offered is a message that doctors on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis It may not bare out in reality when looking at Canada’s scheduled vaccine shipments, with a far more reliable supply of mRNA’s coming into Canada than there are at present when it comes to AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson doses. 

Health Canada first authorized the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in adults 18 years of age and older, on March 5. 

It’s been suggested that the addition of Johnson & Johnson vaccine into Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine toolkit could help expand the kinds of sites where shots can be given, as vials stay stable if unopened for up to 12 hours and can be kept for three hours at room temperature once the seal has been punctured.

In clinical trials involving approximately 43,000 participants, this vaccine was shown to be 66 per cent effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, two weeks after vaccination.

As with other vaccines, common side effects such as muscle pain, fever, and chills, and have been reported after receiving this vaccine. However, after concerns were raised about blood clots, similar to those seen with the AstraZeneca vaccine, Health Canada . The agency said at the time that the benefits of the vaccine still outweighed the risks. 

In total, Canada has a deal with Johnson & Johnson for 10 million doses. The federal government has said all 10 million shots should arrive by the end of September, but beyond the first shipment the government has not said when the next batch is set to land.
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