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Covid vaccine: Single dose Covid vaccine 66% effective

 Undated handout photo issued by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) of Dr Claire Cole, head of research delivery at MFT, receiving a dose of the vaccine developed by the Janssen pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson after she became the first volunteer for the phase three trial

A single dose Covid-19 vaccine developed by Janssen is 66% effective, the Belgian company has announced.

But nobody needed hospital treatment or died from coronavirus after the vaccine took effect in the international trial.

Crucially, it looked at giving just one dose of the vaccine, which makes it significantly easier to roll out than those requiring two.

Although there are also signs it is less effective against the new variant that is spreading in South Africa.

The news comes shortly after Novavax announced their jab was 89% effective overall in the UK and 60% in South Africa. Both new vaccines will need to be reviewed by regulators before they can be used.

Janssen, a pharmaceutical company owned by Johnson & Johnson, is also investigating whether giving two doses will give either stronger or longer-lasting protection.

The fact it works as a single dose and can be kept in a standard fridge, while others need super-cold storage, means the vaccine could have a significant role around the world.

"A one-shot vaccine is considered by the World Health Organization to be the best option in pandemic settings," said Dr Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson.

He added the vaccine could "potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from serious and fatal outcomes of Covid-19".

The company is aiming to make one billion doses this year.

Chart showing the vaccine doses the UK has on order

The Janssen vaccine uses a common cold virus that has been engineered to make it harmless.

It then safely carries part of the coronavirus's genetic code into the body. This is enough for the body to recognise the threat and then learn to fight coronavirus.

This trains the body's immune system to fight coronavirus when it encounters the virus for real.

This is similar to the approach used by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

Dr Mathai Mammen, from Janssen, said: "A single dose regimen with fast onset of protection and ease of delivery and storage provides a potential solution to reaching as many people as possible.

"The ability to avoid hospitalisations and deaths would change the game in combating the pandemic."

The results are based on nearly 44,000 people who took part in the trial and 468 cases of Covid-19.

However the vaccine was just 57% effective in the South African part of the trial, where a new version of the coronavirus is spreading, compared with 72% in the US.

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The UK has already pre-ordered 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine, while the US has ordered 100 million doses and Canada 38 million.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the results from the early trials were "very encouraging" and if approved, the doses of the jab should be available later this year.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Janssen announcement was "yet more good news".

"If this jab is approved this could significantly bolster our vaccination programme, especially as a single dose vaccine," he said.

"Once the full data has been submitted [to the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency], they will consider the evidence to determine whether the vaccine meets robust standards of safety, effectiveness & quality."

media captionHow does a vaccine get approved?

Meanwhile, the latest estimate for the UK's R rate from the government's scientific advisory group, Sage, is 0.7 to 1.1. It means that on average, every 10 people with the virus will infect between seven and 11 other people. Last week, the R rate was between 0.8 and 1.

The latest growth rate range is between -5% and 0%, indicating that the number of new infections is broadly flat or shrinking by up to 5% every day.

The number of coronavirus cases in the UK remained virtually unchanged in the week to 23 January, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

Its survey suggests the epidemic is levelling off or perhaps very slightly falling - but not at the rate hoped.

More than 7.4 million people in the UK have so far received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest government figures.

Meanwhile, the UK recorded a further 1,239 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test on Thursday. There have also been another 28,680 new infections.

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Chart showing UK coronavirus data

Kate Bingham, the previous chair the UK's Vaccine Taskforce, said the reason the UK had a good supply of vaccines compared with other countries was because of its ability to get clinical trials completed quickly and at a high standard through the NHS's registry - with some 400,000 volunteers signing up "before the US even started their Phase 3 studies".

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that companies in the UK had also been given support to scale up their manufacturing processes quickly.

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