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Coronavirus vaccination
12:57 · 28 July 2021

COVID-19 vaccines: Overview of the COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen® by Johnson & Johnson

The vaccine manufactured by the US firm Johnson & Johnson provides safe and effective protection against severe COVID-19 disease progressions. Find more information on the vaccine here.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine protects.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen® manufactured by Johnson & Johnson is the first COVID-19 vaccine thus far that requires only one dose to provide comprehensive protection. In March 2021, it received a conditional marketing authorisation for the EU. Find more information on the vaccine, its efficacy and possible adverse reactions here.

The vaccine at a glance

  • Name: COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen®
  • Marketing authorisation holder: Janssen-Cilag International NV (group of companies of the US corporation Johnson & Johnson)
  • Vaccine type + mode of action: Vector vaccine based on an attenuated cold virus (adenovirus) that was modified so as to introduce a blueprint of the virus into the body’s cells, inducing its immune system to produce antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.
  • Efficacy: In the marketing authorisation studies, the COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen® showed approximately 65% efficacy in protecting against COVID-19 infections. In addition, the vaccine provides almost full protection against severe cases of disease requiring hospitalisation. You can find more information on the efficacy of the vaccine in the product summary .
  • STIKO vaccine recommendation: Based on the currently available data, the vaccine is recommended for persons over the age of 60. Persons under the age of 60 may be administered this vaccine after being informed by a doctor and individually accepting the risks.
  • Some typical vaccine reactions include: headaches, pain at the injection site, fatigue or flu-like symptoms.
  • Administration: by injection into the muscle of the upper arm (intramuscular)
  • Vaccination schedule: single dose
  • Storage: When stored in the freezer at between -25 °C and -15 °C, the unopened vaccine has a shelf-life of two years; between 2 °C and 8 °C, the unopened vaccine has a shelf-life of 3 months. Once thawed, the vaccine may not be refrozen, however.

This is how the vector vaccine works

COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen® by Johnson & Johnson consists of a so-called vector virus – a well-researched virus that is incapable of reproducing in the vaccinated person’s body. In the case of this vaccine, it is an adenovirus (a cold virus) that contains the genetic information for a single coronavirus protein: the so-called spike protein.

The function of the vector virus is to transport the information into the body, where the cells “read” it and are subsequently able to manufacture the spike protein themselves. The immune system recognises the spike proteins thereby manufactured by the body as foreign proteins and consequently produces antibodies and defence cells against the coronavirus. This is how a protective immune response comes about.

Good to know: The spike protein on its own is incapable of causing a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Furthermore, the body breaks down the vector virus after a short period of time, after which the virus protein (spike protein) is no longer produced.

Studies confirm a high level of protection from hospitalisation

In marketing authorisation studies, the protective effect of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen® already took effect after 14 days; all in all, the vaccine demonstrated effective proof against COVID-19 infection after 28 days. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was able to reduce the risk of a severe disease progression by 85 percent 28 days after the vaccination. Find more information on the efficacy of the vaccine in the product summary (from page 7).

Efficacy exceeds the minimum requirements

The World Health Organization (WHO) required an efficacy of at least 50 percent for the licensing of coronavirus vaccines. With an efficacy of 65 percent on average (for protection against COVID-19 diseases) and an effective protection against severe disease progressions requiring hospitalisation, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine clearly exceeds requirements. This means: A person immunised with this vaccine is highly unlikely to become severely ill and need hospitalisation after coming into contact with the pathogen.

Recommended for persons from the age of 60

Based on the data currently available, coronavirus vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is recommended by the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) for persons from the age of 60. Younger people can also get immunised with this vaccine if they decide to do so after having been thoroughly informed by the vaccinating doctor and individually accepting the risks.

Vaccine reactions and adverse reactions

In principle, all vaccines can lead to vaccine reactions and additional adverse reactions, irrespective of the pathogen or the vaccine. Most often people experience typical reactions such as pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue or muscle pain. These are usually no reason for concern, but are rather a sign that the immune system is reacting to the vaccination. In consultation with your physician, you may take pain or fever-reducing medication in the recommended dosage to mitigate possible complaints. Information on adverse reactions is contained in the current product information texts. These can be accessed at the website of the Paul Ehrlich Institut.

Safety continuously monitored

If you have known allergies to ingredients contained in the COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen® by Johnson & Johnson, you should avoid taking the vaccine. The safety of the COVID-19 vaccines is monitored continuously. Indications of hitherto unknown, very rare, possible adverse reactions are thoroughly examined and assessed to enable an immediate response if necessary.

The observation that, following vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, there have been very rare cases (less than 0.01%) of blood clots (e.g. in the brain as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis or in the abdominal cavity), combined with a reduction in the blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia), which in some cases has led to death, is noted in the information sheet. These cases occurred within three weeks after vaccination and predominantly in persons under the age of 60. The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) therefore recommends that the COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen® by Johnson & Johnson be administered to persons 60 years and older.

In its safety reports, the Paul Ehrlich Institute continuously informs the public of all reported suspected cases of adverse reactions or vaccination complications that are temporally related to the COVID-19 vaccination in Germany.

Find information on possible adverse reactions, as well as additional important information in the information sheet on vector vaccines that can be downloaded here.

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