According to the Australian Government, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine is based on comparable technologies to AstraZeneca’s vaccine. AFP photo
The vaccine is commonly used in the United States and has the benefit of having only one injection, as opposed to the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna equivalents, which all require two doses.
The Australian federal government had been in talks with the global pharmaceutical giant about potentially acquiring its vaccine, and the company had previously submitted an application to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for provisional registration.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is based on the same technology as the AstraZeneca vaccine.
According to a spokesperson for Health Minister Greg Hunt, the parallels are the reason the federal government opted not to pursue the choice further.
The announcement comes amid the fact that the federal government has been debating ways to raise Australia’s vaccination orders in response to evolving recommendations on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Owing to questions over an unusually limited number of cases of an unusual blood clotting disease reported in users of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is now the best choice for Australians under 50.
It was announced late last week that a new order for 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been placed.
While Australia has agreements with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Novavax, the Novavax vaccine has yet to be accepted.
The federal opposition requested that the government explain why it was not negotiating an agreement with Johnson & Johnson.
Mark Butler, the Shadow Health Minister, said that Australia wanted to secure further vaccination deals.
“With this very important vaccine that’s rolling out through the US, will start to roll out through the United Kingdom very soon, if there is a decision not to go with it, what are the reasons for that?” Butler said.
“I think this is the problem Australians and Australian businesses are having right now – the communication channels from the government have shut down.
“We’ve got a prime minister that’s retreated to Facebook and a minister who’s making announcements through a spokesperson without clear background information.”
In New Zealand, Medsafe is meeting to consider whether to approve the Janssen vaccine. If it is given the nod, up to two million doses will be available from July.
Millions vaccinated overseas with a single dose
As of 11 April, nearly 6.5 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been administered in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since patients only need one injection, a population may be fully vaccinated in a comparatively short period of time.
The vaccine has been authorised for use in the European Union, and shipments to the continent are said to have begun this week.
Last Friday, Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy said the government was “still exploring with Johnson & Johnson” at a press conference with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
He also said that it was a vaccine similar to that developed by AstraZeneca.
The European Medicines Agency said last week that it was investigating four blood-clotting cases in the United States linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
However, Johnson & Johnson said “no clear causal relationship has been established” between the cases and the vaccine.