The European Union drug regulator approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Thursday, amid mounting frustration with a sluggish inoculation campaign that has been hobbled by supply shocks and logistics failures, and with global wars over scarce doses ratcheting up.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which can be stored in regular fridges for up to three months and only requires one shot, is the fourth to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, Europe’s main drug regulator. It was approved for people over 18. Three more vaccines, Novavax, CureVac and Sputnik V, are undergoing a rolling review by the regulator, the initial stage of the process that would eventually grant them authorization for use in Europe.
The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, is expected to officially authorize the use of the shot later on Thursday, opening the door for the arrival of a contracted 200 million doses, and to an option for another 200 million, which could help speed up the underwhelming vaccination rollout on the continent.
The bloc, which is home to about 450 million people in 27 countries, has so far inoculated only 6.5 percent of its inhabitants, lagging behind the likes of Britain, Israel and the United States.
were published by The New York Times, revealing that the bloc had been a vaccine exporting powerhouse. The report stoked an intense debate over whether the European Union should be permitting any exports at all, in view of its underwhelming rollout at home, which is in part because of supply shortages.
The bloc has come under fierce criticism for “vaccine nationalism” and protectionism, which intensified last week when Italy blocked a small shipment of doses to Australia.
The export mechanism only applies to the shipping of vaccines from companies that are producing their vaccines in the bloc and providing them to the European Union. The mechanism exempts some countries close to the bloc and also developing nations, on humanitarian grounds.