Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine was approved by the World Health Organization on Friday, clearing the way for it to be distributed to dozens of low- and middle-income countries that are currently lagging behind in the worldwide vaccination race.
The first batch of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines from COVAX is unloaded at Nnamdi Azikiwe … [+]
Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is the third to earn an emergency use listing from the WHO, after Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s vaccines.
The WHO’s signoff will allow Johnson & Johnson doses to be distributed through COVAX, an international initiative aiming to send vaccines to poorer countries.
COVAX has ordered 100 million doses from Johnson & Johnson, and it has the option to buy 100 million additional shots this year and 300 million in 2022.
This vaccine joins COVAX’s arsenal as the initiative has fallen behind wealthy countries in getting shots in arms: The United States expects to have enough vaccine doses to immunize every U.S. adult by late May, whereas COVAX is aiming to distribute enough shots for just 3.3% of its participating countries’ populations in the first half of this year.
Africa is in especially dire shape, with COVAX shipping about 15 million doses to the continent’s over 1.2 billion residents so far, according to WHO officials — by the end of May, it hopes to send 13.7 million AstraZeneca doses to Nigeria (whose population exceeds 200 million) and 2 million to Ghana (with a population of about 30 million).
Similarly, Pakistan is slated to receive 14.6 million AstraZeneca doses from COVAX by the end of May, despite a population of almost 220 million.
“Africa still has a number of countries that have not yet received vaccines or not yet been able to start vaccination,” WHO advisor Dr. Bruce Aylward told reporters Friday. “That’s a situation we have to change very very quickly.”
About 335 million. That’s how many vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, according to the WHO. However, 76% of those doses have been used by just 10 countries, led by the United States.
Starting last year, wealthy countries began reserving scores of coronavirus vaccine doses, leaving a dearth of supplies for poorer places with fewer resources. COVAX is aiming to partially bridge that gap, pooling resources from more affluent countries to help subsidize doses for the developing world, but the initiative has struggled with funding.
COVAX isn’t the only source of vaccines for developing countries. The African Union has ordered 670 million doses from AstraZeneca over the next two years, and some doses from China’s Sinopharm reached Pakistan last month. Still, COVAX is a key part of early vaccination efforts in countries with limited resources.
The WHO approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine one day after European Union regulators signed off and about two weeks after the United States granted emergency use authorization. The one-shot vaccine is broadly effective at stopping severe disease and hospitalizations, though its overall efficacy rate is somewhat lower against a contagious coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa.
Johnson & Johnson Applies For Emergency Use Vaccine Approval At W.H.O. (Forbes)
Covid-19 Africa: Who is getting the vaccine? (BBC)
I am a breaking news reporter at Forbes. I previously covered local news for the Boston Guardian, and I graduated from Tufts University in 2019. You can contact me at