The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its COVID-19 vaccine recommendations on Monday to say that the single dose Johnson & Johnson vax may be used for Canadians in the 30+ age group. 

However NACI‘s update came with a caveat that the individual has no predetermined health risks. The advisory body also said that the Janssen vaccine was an option “if the individual does not wish to wait for an mRNA vaccine and if the benefits outweigh the risk for the individual”. 

It also recommends pregnant women take mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna if the benefits outweigh the risks for the individual and the fetus.

“An mRNA vaccine is preferred due to recently published data indicating the safety of mRNA vaccines during pregnancy, and concerns about the treatment of Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) during pregnancy, should it occur following the administration of a viral vector vaccine,” NACI said. 

Health Canada, which approved the Janssen vaccine on March 5, has deemed it “safe and effective” for adults above the age of 18. 

Like AstraZeneca, the J&J vaccine uses viral vector technology. 

When a person is given the vaccine, the vector virus contained within the vaccine produces the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. This protein will not make you sick, it does its job and goes away. Through this process, the body is able to build a strong immune response against the spike protein without exposing you to the virus that causes COVID-19. 

However both the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines have been found to cause rare blood clots.

Now it is up to the provinces to decide whether they will abide by NACI’s recommendations or follow Health Canada’s directive.  

The single-shot Janssen vaccine which has an efficacy rate of 67 per cent is easier to transport and store.

According to Johnson & Johnson, the vaccine is estimated to remain stable for two years at -25 to -15°C, and a maximum of three months of which can be at routine refrigeration at temperatures of 2°- 8°C.  

Hence NACI says the Janssen vaccine may be better suited for populations that are harder to schedule for a second dose (e.g., mobile populations and certain hard to reach populations).

According to NACI, preliminary evidence suggests the vaccine offers protection against the B.1.3.5.1 variant of concern first identified in South Africa and the P.2 variant of interest first identified in Brazil.

The news comes a few days after Health Canada announced it was postponing the country’s first shipment of J&J vaccines due to quality control issues.

 

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