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Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine approved for use in Switzerland

Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine is the third shot to be approved by Switzerland with vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and from Moderna. Keystone

Health regulator Swissmedic has given the green light for the use of the vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson (J&J). This is the third vaccine to be approved in Switzerland. However, Switzerland has not yet ordered any doses of J&J's one-shot vaccine.        

This content was published on March 22, 2021 - 17:07
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“Swissmedic has temporarily authorised the ‘Covid-19 vaccine Janssen’ developed by the pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson for people aged 18 and over,” Swissmedic said in a statementExternal link on Monday.

To date Switzerland has not ordered J&J’s one-shot vaccine, which was approved in the United States, Canada and the European Union. While deliveries have begun in the US, Europe is not set to get the vaccine until the second quarter of 2021. The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health does not expect it to be available until autumnExternal link.

Swissmedic said the submitted study data showed an average efficacy of 66.9% in the investigated age groups.

“Severe and critical forms of Covid-19 can be prevented with this vaccine (in almost 85% of cases),” said Swissmedic. “A positive effect was also demonstrated against the dominant mutations in Brazil and South Africa (SARS-CoV-2 variants).”

The advantage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it only needs to be administered as a single dose. It is also relatively easy to store and transport. The vaccine can be stored frozen at -25 °C to -15 °C and can be transported either deep-frozen or after thawing at between 2 °C and 8 °C. Once removed from the freezer, the unopened vaccine can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three months.

“It is based on a human adenovirus (cold virus) containing the blueprint for the spike proteins of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which in turn forms the basis for triggering the desired immune response to the virus in the human immune cells,” said Swissmedic.

What's been ordered?

However, Switzerland decided not to order the J&J vaccine amid its first round of vaccine purchases, on grounds that it would likely not get the vaccine amid supply bottlenecks until autumn 2021.

For the population of 8.6 million people, the Swiss government has ordered nearly 36 million vaccine doses from five companies: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Curevac and Novavax. So far, Swissmedic has given the green light to two Covid-19 vaccines: from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The application from AstraZeneca is still under review.

Vaccinations began in late December in the Alpine nation. Switzerland has set an ambitious target: to inoculate six million people (70% of the population) on a voluntary basis by summer with up to 70,000 vaccine shots per day. While the cantons have set up the necessary infrastructure to vaccinate the population, the authorities admit that progress has been “insufficient” largely due to production bottlenecks.

survey conducted on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation in January found that 41% of people surveyed said they would be willing to get vaccinated immediately.

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