On Wednesday, the World Health Organization released its interim recommendations for the use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for people age 18 and older, based on advice from its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization, who met on Monday.
“After reviewing the evidence, we have a vaccine that shows to be safe and it shows to have the necessary efficacy to be recommended by us for use in people above the age of 18 without an upper age limit,” said Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, chair of SAGE, during a briefing Wednesday.
Cravioto said that the fact that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single dose vaccine is “a regular advantage in the sense of having the capacity to vaccinate more people, but no different in reality in its capacity to protect against severe disease or death or hospitalization than all the other ones that we have already reviewed and recommended.”
There is currently not enough data on pregnant women to assess the risks of the vaccine to the group, the SAGE recommendations say, but in the interim, pregnant women should receive the vaccine if the benefit of being vaccinated outweighs the potential risks, for example if a pregnant women is a health worker or has comorbidities that place them in a high risk group for severe Covid-19.
The document also points out that there have been no safety issues identified following the vaccination of more than 1,600 women against the company’s Ebola vaccine which is based on the same platform.
SAGE recommends that people who have already been infected with SARS-CoV-2 should still be vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but that they wait for up to six months before getting it in order to give others a chance to get their first doses. However, in countries with high circulation of variants of concern, Cravioto said that they recommend that people who have already been infected not wait more than a week or two to be vaccinated.
“In the countries where there is a high spread of the variants, and in countries where we now have information about the use of this vaccine to control SARS-CoV-2 caused by these variants, we recommend that you use it,” Cravioto said, giving data coming out of the US, Europe, South Africa and Brazil as examples.
As with other vaccines, SAGE recommends that groups who are disproportionately at risk of being infected and who live in environments where the virus circulates at a much wider capacity are vaccinated first, Cravioto said.
They do not recommend the vaccine for people who are traveling and do not recommend any type of certificate for traveling, he said.
SAGE has already made recommendations on the Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.