OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s drug regulator on Friday approved Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, the fourth such shot to be given the green light, as Ottawa brought forward deliveries of millions of Pfizer doses.
“To people watching at home right now who are looking forward to getting their shot – your turn is coming,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a televised briefing.
Trudeau also said Pfizer Inc had agreed to accelerate deliveries, shipping a total of 3.5 million doses ahead of schedule by the end of May.
Deliveries to Canada have been slow – lagging many other developed nations – even though it has ordered more doses per capita than any other country.
With a population of almost 38 million, Canada now expects 36.5 million doses of previously approved vaccines to be delivered by the end of June.
The regulator authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Inc vaccines in December, and AstraZeneca’s in February. Each of these requires two shots.
The government of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, said on Friday it would extend the maximum period between first and second doses to four months, speeding up access to a first shot.
In addition to seniors and healthcare workers, Ontario now plans to prioritize shots for those who are unable to work from home, including teachers, and it aims to administer at least one dose of a vaccine to all adults over 60 by early June, officials said.
The J&J vaccine is the first single-dose vaccine approved in Canada and it can be stored in normal fridges, while the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots must be kept in freezers.
The J&J shot, which has been authorized for adults in Canada, was 66% effective at preventing moderate and severe disease, said Supriya Sharma, a senior health ministry official.
Canada has pre-ordered 10 million doses of the J&J vaccine, with options to order up to 28 million more. In a statement, the Brunswick, New Jersey-based company said it planned to provide the 10 million doses by the end of September.
U.S. President Joe Biden said earlier this week that J&J was behind in manufacturing. The company was due to have shipped 37 million doses to the United States by the end of this month but looks set to fall well short of that.
So far, 4.2% of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to volunteer-run tracking site COVID-19 Tracker Canada, compared with 16% in the United States.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer, additional reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Giles Elgood and Steve Orlofsky)