Coronavirus digest: Johnson & Johnson vaccine 66% effective | News | DW | 29.01.2021
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Coronavirus digest: Johnson & Johnson vaccine 66% effective

The J&J jab has proven to be less effective than other vaccines, though it can be administered with just one shot. The EMA has given a clean bill of health to the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. Follow DW for the latest.

A person getting a COVID-19 vaccination

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate is administered with just one shot

Johnson & Johnson's long-awaited vaccine appears to protect against the coronavirus with just one shot, though results showed it is not as effective as other vaccines on offer that are administered via two injections.

J&J said the single-shot vaccine was 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and much more protective — 85% — against the most serious variations.

The trials were conducted in eight countries.

The vaccine worked better in the United States, where it was 72% effective against moderate to severe COVID-19, compared to 57% in South Africa, where it was up against an easier-to-spread mutated virus.

"Gambling on one dose was certainly worthwhile,'' Dr. Mathai Mammen, global research chief for J&J's Janssen Pharmaceutical unit, told The Associated Press.

EMA: Deaths not linked to BioNTech-Pfizer jab

The BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus shot shows no link to reported post-vaccination deaths and no new side effects, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.

The Amsterdam-based agency said it had examined reports that dozens of mainly elderly people in Norway and other European countries had died after they received a first shot of the vaccine, known as Comirnaty.

The EMA said it had looked at the deaths and "concluded that the data did not show a link to vaccination with Comirnaty and the cases do not raise a safety concern."

Providing its first safety update since the EU embarked on its vaccination campaign in December, the watchdog said data appeared to be "consistent with the known safety profile of the vaccine, and no new side effects were identified."

The reports of some severe allergic reactions did not go beyond what had already been found about this "known side effect", the EMA said.

"The benefits of Comirnaty in preventing COVID-19 continue to outweigh any risks, and there are no recommended changes regarding the use of the vaccine," it added.

Meanwhile, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has called for "plausible answers" over a delay in the number of shots the bloc receives from British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Here's a rundown of some of the other most notable pandemic-related stories around the world at present. 


Kenya has announced it is seeking an additional 11 million doses of vaccines, on top of the 24 million already ordered, and hopes to have vaccinated some 16 million people by June next year.

The nation of more than 50 million people aims to vaccinate 1.25 million in phase one of the rollout by June this year, senior health ministry official Mercy Mwangangi told reporters. But "if more vaccines become available...then this target may change," she added.

The extra 11 million doses will be obtained via the African Union's disease control and prevention body.


The UK will ban all direct passenger flights from the UAE starting Friday. The country has extended its travel ban list to include UAE, Burundi and Rwanda owing to concerns over the spread of the South African variant of the coronavirus.

With the ban, the UK has shut the world's busiest international flight route from Dubai to London.

Germany has floated similar air travel restrictions. You can read around-up of recently-imposed tougher travel measures across Europe here 

Germany's Robert Koch Institute has reported 14,022 new cases and 839 deaths. Compared to the previous Friday that represented a very similar tally of recorded deaths and more than 3,000 fewer new cases.

Also in Germany, some 20.3 million doses of vaccines should be available to the country by the end of March, Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff has confirmed.

"We already got 1.3 million doses from BioNTech last year, and by the end of March we should have around 10 million doses from the two manufacturers that have already been approved," Helge Braun told German news outlet t-online, referring to Moderna as the second vaccine provider.

France will be closing its borders to non-EU countries for everything except essential travel, the country's Prime Minister Jean Castex said. The measure is set to go into effect on Sunday. Castex said it was still possible to avoid another full-scale lockdown. In addition to limiting travel, the French authorities would also cut down the number of people allowed into shopping malls. and tighten curfew controls.

In Russia, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said that over half of the city's population already caught the coronavirus. The Russian capital, with its 12,7 million residents, is the country's biggest city and its biggest COVID-19 hotspot.

Speaking to Rossyia 1 broadcaster, Sobyanin said it was pointless to rush the vaccination of people who have already recovered from their infections. 

"From this massive sample that we have, reinfections are under 1%," he said, without providing details.

Lawmakers in Ukraine have voted against the approval of vaccines produced in Russia.

Argentina, Brazil and Hungary have all bought Russia's Sputnik V, hailed by President Vladimir Putin as the "best vaccine" in the world, but Ukraine has declined to take up the opportunity.

In the meantime, the Ukrainian parliament has eased the process for registering vaccines from the US, the EU, China, India and Mexico.

A fire has killed four people at a hospital treating COVID patients in the Romanian capital Bucharest. Over 100 other patients have been evacuated, officials said.

Hungary has become the first EU member to approve the Chinese-made Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.


A team of experts from the WHO has started meeting Chinese scientists in a bid to determine the origins of the coronavirus.

The experts plan to visit labs, markets and hospitals in the city of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated. 

Vietnam has reported nine new COVID infections as its first outbreak in almost two months spread to the capital, Hanoi. The Ministry of Health said most of the new infections were reported in the provinces of Haiphong, Hai Duong, Quang Ninh and Bac Ninh.

More than 80 people tested positive for the virus on Thursday, marking the country's biggest single-day outbreak since the pandemic began.


The coronavirus variant originating in South Africa has now been detected in the United States for the first time.

Authorities said they had found the strain in two people in the state of South Carolina. The more contagious variant has caused concern because it appears to be partly resistant to current vaccines and antibody treatments. COVID-19 has killed more than 432,000 people in the US, the world's highest death toll.

US government's top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said he hoped children will start getting their coronavirus shots in the next few months.

"Hopefully by the time we get to the late spring and early summer we will have children being able to be vaccinated," he told reporters at a White House briefing.

Restaurants in New York City are set to reopen from Valentine's Day, according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He announced that restaurants and bars would work at 25% capacity from February 14, but only if the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus continues to fall. It had already gone down from 7.1% in early January to 4.9% near the end of the month.

"All the models project that number to continue to drop," Cuomo said.

The number of coronavirus deaths in Mexico reached 155,145 on Thursday. That means it has overtaken India's death toll and now has the world's third-highest tally behind the United States and Brazil. The country reported 1,506 new deaths on Thursday, as well as 18,670 new infections.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tested positive for the virus at the weekend and is continuing to receive treatment.

Catch up on DW content

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took drastic measures as the coronavirus pandemic was spreading, ordering a lockdown with just four hours' notice. Millions were left stranded but new cases are still rising rapidly. 

Has India’s Hindu nationalist government mismanaged the country’s response to the coronavirus?

Thousands of COVID-19 patients in South Africa's hospitals face isolation. A video of an interfaith prayer group that decided to bring moral support to people in the hospitals of Cape Town has gone viral on social media. Watch this report by DW's Adrian Kriesch below.

Watch video 02:18

Cape Town interfaith group brings comfort to hospitals

am,nm,rc,jsi/rt (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)

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