The European Union approved the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on Thursday — the fourth jab to get the green light for the 27-nation bloc.
The decision offers a boost for the EU’s sluggish vaccination programme even if reports say the first J&J shipments may not arrive in European countries until April.
The European Commission formally gave the green light for the jab after the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended approval.
“More safe and effective vaccines are coming to the market,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet.
“We have just authorised the use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in the EU…. With the number of doses we ordered, we could vaccinate up to 200 million people in the EU” with the J&J jab this year, she said.
The EU has signed a firm order for 200 million and an option for 200 million more.
As well as being the first that requires a single injection as opposed to two, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is easier to store.
The EU has so far approved three vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford. Three other vaccines are under “rolling review” by the Amsterdam-based EMA — Novavax, CureVac and Russia’s Sputnik.
The EMA gave the green light after saying clinical trials involving volunteers in the United States, South Africa and South American countries found the J&J jab was 67 percent effective at preventing people from getting Covid.
Side effects were “usually mild or moderate”, including pain at the injection site, headache, tiredness, muscle pain and nausea, and usually cleared within a couple of days, it said.