US drug regulator authorises Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

The United States on Saturday authorised Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, adding a third vaccine to the US arsenal to fight the pandemic as the death toll due to the infection crosses 5.11 lakh.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the nation's third coronavirus vaccine. The official emergency use authorisation for Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) single-dose vaccine comes after an FDA advisory panel voted 22-0 to recommend authorization on Friday.

The United States has reported more than 28.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 511,000 reported deaths. The demand for vaccines still far exceeds supply, these vaccines can't come soon enough.

The vaccine, made by Janssen, J&J's vaccine arm, is safe and effective, and it's considered flexible. It's a single dose, and it doesn't require special storage. The vaccine is authorized for people ages 18 and older.

The FDA said J&J's vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations, and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents - protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden on Saturday said the approval of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot coronavirus vaccine by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is "exciting news" but warned Americans against letting their guard down as the situation could deteriorate.

"This is exciting news for all Americans and an encouraging development in our efforts to bring an end to the crisis," Biden said in a Saturday statement. "But I want to be clear: this fight is far from over. Though we celebrate today's news, I urge all Americans -- keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing masks. As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse," he added.

Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the US, and 100 million by summer.

J&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. Worldwide, the company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year. On Thursday, the island nation of Bahrain became the first to clear its use.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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