The first doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine are set to arrive this week in Ontario, where one expert says they could do a world of good for some of the province’s most vulnerable.
J&J’s one-shot vaccine, which does not need to be stored at ultracold temperatures, is perfect for populations like migrant workers, prison inmates and people experiencing homelessness, according to Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at University Health Network in Toronto.
“Oh my god, we could do so much good with that in those places,” Bogoch, who sits on Ontario’s vaccine task force, told CBC News. “This single-shot vaccine makes it a lot easier.”
Public health officials have had some trouble administering second doses to people in those groups, Bogoch says. They are also more likely to experience bad outcomes if they get COVID-19, because of barriers to health care. The province is struggling to contain its third wave of the pandemic, which this month has routinely seen more than 4,000 new cases per day.
“[A one-shot vaccine] makes it a lot easier to provide greater protection to a larger number of individuals in a shorter period of time. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
WATCH | ‘A perfect vaccine,’ Bogoch says:
The J&J vaccine could also be given out at pharmacies, because it’s easily administered, Bogoch said.
The province is already offering other vaccines through some pharmacies. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health did not answer queries about how the J&J vaccine will be distributed.
Canada is expecting about 300,000 doses of the J&J vaccine to arrive at the end of this week, with 116,700 allocated for Ontario.
Health Canada approved the J&J vaccine in March, but its use in the U.S. was paused last month amid reports of very rare blood clotting — in 15 of the roughly 6.8 million Americans who got the shot, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC on Sunday recommended resumption of the vaccine’s use, but said women under the age of 50 should be aware of this “rare but increased risk.”
Health Canada acknowledged the risk on Monday when it updated its label for the vaccine.
In a tweet about the update, the agency said: “Cases of rare blood clotting events reported in the U.S. after immunization with the … vaccine are similar to those reported after the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
Both Health Canada and the CDC say the benefits outweigh the risks. In a study of 43,000 participants, J&J’s vaccine was found to be 66 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection starting two weeks after vaccination, according to Health Canada.
Bogoch says he’s heard concerns about giving the J&J vaccine to vulnerable populations because of the “tiny-but-not-zero” risk of blood clots.
“Some people are saying, ‘Are you giving people a substandard vaccine?’
“And the answer is no, we’re not. We’re giving AstraZeneca to anyone who’s 40 years and up, that also has small-but-not-zero per cent risk of blood clotting events with it. And it’s flying off the shelves in all neighbourhoods,” he said.
“These are vaccines that were approved in Canada. They work well. And you have an opportunity to provide significant protection to a group of people that, through no fault of their own, are just less likely to come back for a second dose.”
Ontario administered 94,819 doses of COVID-19 vaccines Monday, bringing the total number of shots given out to almost 4.8 million. There are now 362,563 Ontarians who are fully vaccinated, according to officials.
Health Canada says recipients should seek immediate medical attention if they notice any of these symptoms within a month of getting the J&J vaccine:
- New severe headaches, worsening or persistent headaches, blurred vision, confusion or seizures.
- Shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, leg pain or persistent abdominal pain.
- Unusual skin bruising or pinpoint round spots under the skin beyond the site of injection.
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