Up to 400 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to African Union countries, the US pharmaceutical giant said on Monday.
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Under the terms of the deal, 220 million doses of the serum, which requires only one injection, will be distributed to 55 African Union member countries, with deliveries starting in the third quarter of 2021.
The countries concerned will be able, if they deem it necessary, to order 180 million additional doses, for a total of 400 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines sent by 2022.
“We are committed to equitable and international access to vaccines against COVID-19,” said Alex Gorsky, CEO of the American firm, in a statement.
In January, Johnson & Johnson announced that its vaccine was 66% effective against COVID-19.
Unlike the remedies from Pfizer and Moderna, which use the innovative messenger RNA technique, the “J&J” vaccine is a “viral vector” vaccine.
These vaccines use another weakly virulent virus as a carrier, transformed to add genetic instructions from part of the virus responsible for COVID-19. The modified virus enters the cells of vaccinated people, which then make a protein typical of SARS-CoV-2, training their immune system to recognize it. A process also used for AstraZeneca and Sputnik vaccines.
Another important advantage of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is that it can be stored at refrigerator temperatures rather than freezers, making it much easier to distribute.
Between mid-February and the end of December 2020, 2.8 million cases of coronavirus infections were recorded in the 55 countries of the African Union, or only 3% of the global total, and 65,602 deaths were recorded, according to a study published last week in the British journal The Lancet.