On February 27, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the third vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19. The EUA allows the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to be distributed in the United States for use in individuals 18 years of age and older.
The FDA has determined that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine has met the statutory criteria for issuance of an EUA. The totality of the available data provides clear evidence that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine may be effective in preventing COVID-19. The data also show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks, supporting the company’s request for the vaccine’s use in people 18 years of age and older. In making this determination, the FDA can assure the public and medical community that it has conducted a thorough evaluation of the available safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality information.
The Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is manufactured using a specific type of virus called adenovirus type 26 (Ad26). The vaccine uses Ad26 to deliver a piece of the DNA, or genetic material, that is used to make the distinctive “spike” protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While adenoviruses are a group of viruses that are relatively common, Ad26, which can cause cold symptoms and pink eye, has been modified for the vaccine so that it cannot replicate in the human body to cause illness. After a person receives this vaccine, the body can temporarily make the spike protein, which does not cause disease, but triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response against SARS-CoV-2.
FDA Evaluation of Available Safety Data
The Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a single dose. The available safety data to support the EUA include an analysis of 43,783 participants enrolled in an ongoing randomized, placebo-controlled study being conducted in South Africa, certain countries in South America, Mexico, and the United States. The participants, 21,895 of whom received the vaccine and 21,888 of whom received saline placebo, were followed for a median of 8 weeks after vaccination. The most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1 to 2 days.
As part of the authorization, the FDA notes that it is mandatory for Janssen Biotech Inc and vaccination providers to report the following to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) for Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine: serious adverse events, cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and cases of COVID-19 that result in hospitalization or death. It is also mandatory for vaccination providers to report all vaccine administration errors to VAERS for which they become aware and for Janssen to include a summary and analysis of all identified vaccine administration errors in monthly safety reports submitted to the FDA.
FDA Evaluation of Available Effectiveness Data
The effectiveness data to support the EUA included an analysis of 39,321 participants in the ongoing randomized, placebo-controlled study being conducted in South Africa, certain countries in South America, Mexico, and the United States who did not have evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection prior to receiving the vaccine. Among these participants, 19,630 received the vaccine and 19,691 received saline placebo.
Overall, the vaccine was approximately 67% effective in preventing moderate to severe or critical cases of COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination. Additionally, the vaccine was approximately 77% effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 85% effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination.
There were 116 cases of COVID-19 in the vaccine group that occurred at least 14 days after vaccination and 348 cases of COVID-19 in the placebo group during this time period. There were 66 cases of COVID-19 in the vaccine group that occurred at least 28 days after vaccination and 193 cases of COVID-19 in the placebo group during this time period. Starting 14 days after vaccination, there were 14 severe or critical cases in the vaccinated group vs 60 in the placebo group, and starting 28 days after vaccination, there were 5 severe or critical in the vaccine group vs 34 cases in the placebo group.
At this time, data are not available to determine how long the vaccine will provide protection, nor is there evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from person to person.The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.