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Is the Janssen vaccine approval in the US a gamechanger for Belgium too?

The American Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, has OKed the corona vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson in its Belgian division Janssen Pharmaceutica.  The decision means the vaccine could be available in Europe too soon.

Could the approval of the Janssen corona vaccine be a gamechanger for us in Belgium? Health minister Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) believes the approval is tremendous news: “This means that here too 4 vaccines will probably be in play soon”.

Vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme has an eye for the advantages of this vaccine: “Only one jab is needed.   This makes it easier to roll out the vaccination programme.  An extra advantage is the fact that this vaccine can be stored at fridge temperature, between 2°C and 8°C”.

Sunday’s FDA decision means Johnson & Johnson is already transporting the vaccine to the four corners of the US.  By the end of March the company intends to supply 20 million doses to the US.

US President Biden welcomed the news.

Belgium has ordered five million doses of the Janssen vaccine.  The company believes the order can soon be met, but European authorities still need to OK the vaccine.  Johnson & Johnson has already applied for approval from the European Medicines Agency that is expected to announce a decision on 11 March. The vaccines are expected here in April.

Jef Ramaekers of the Belgian vaccination taskforce: “That’s partly due to the point when the company filed for approval.  The European approval procedure is also more thorough.”

Virologist Marc Van Ranst sees other reasons for the delay: “The Americans signed their contract in August, the Europeans in October.  There’s a pecking order among world powers.  The EU isn’t at the top.  When you need to negotiate among dozens of countries, you lose valuable time.  One country can decide more quickly.  The United States of Europe we are not.”

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