Published: 09:22, September 23, 2020 | Updated: 16:30, June 5, 2023
J&J begins giant trial testing for one-dose COVID-19 shot
By Bloomberg

In this file photo an entry sign to the Johnson & Johnson campus shows their logo in Irvine, California on Aug 28, 2019. (PHOTO / AFP)

NEW YORK / MEXICO CITY / PARIS / BERLIN / RIO DE JANEIRO / OTTAWA / GUATEMALA CITY / MADRID / HARARE / LONDON / MOSCOW / VIENNA - Johnson & Johnson has begun dosing up to 60,000 volunteers in a study of its COVID-19 vaccine, marking the first big US trial of an inoculation that may work after just one shot.

J&J is the fourth vaccine maker to move its candidate into late-stage human studies in the US If enrollment goes as expected, the trial could yield results as soon as year-end, allowing the company to seek emergency authorization early next year, should it prove effective, Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said Tuesday.

“We are convinced that the single dose could be very efficacious,” he said on a call with the press, citing promising results from earlier research.

The study will compare the vaccine with a placebo injection, with a goal of showing whether it reduces cases of moderate to severe COVID-19. J&J will publish detailed trial plans Wednesday, Stoffels said. Frontrunners Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc have already done the same.

“It is likely that multiple COVID-19 vaccine regimens will be required to meet the global need,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a statement. J&J’s vaccine “may be especially useful in controlling the pandemic if shown to be protective after a single dose.”

The J&J study is nearly two months behind those of Moderna, working with NIAID, and Pfizer, partnered with BioNTech SE, whose final-stage trials started in late July. Pfizer has said it could get efficacy results by the end of October. Those vaccines use two-dose regimens.

J&J’s vaccine could offer an advantage in distribution over two-shot inoculations that will require vaccination sites to ensure recipients return for their second dose. The company said its vaccine can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for three months, far longer than the Pfizer vaccine that requires deep freezing for long-term storage.

The product is made from a cold virus, called an adenovirus, that’s modified to make copies of the coronavirus’s spike protein, which the pathogen uses to enter cells. The altered virus can’t replicate in humans, but it induces an immune response that prepares the body for an actual COVID-19 infection. The vaccine was developed with researchers at Harvard University who have spent years working on the adenovirus vaccine platform, which is also used in J&J’s Ebola vaccine.

The health-care behemoth is running the study in conjunction with NIAID and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at sites in the US, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and other countries. It will include significant representation among those over the age of 60, as well as minorities at disproportionate risk of becoming infected, including Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples, according to a statement.


The British government on Wednesday defended its new, stricter coronavirus measures against criticism that they did not got far enough, saying it was trying to balance supporting the economy while protecting health.

What we don't want is to have to take even more severe measures as we go through Christmas ... that's why we need to take the proportional, targeted measures we're taking now.

Dominic Raab, UK's foreign secretary

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told citizens on Tuesday to work from home if possible and ordered restaurants and bars to close early, saying restrictions would likely last six months. He said the winter would be hard but that his strategy would keep the economy moving while containing the virus contagion.

"What we don't want is to have to take even more severe measures as we go through Christmas," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on LBC radio Wednesday. "And that's why we need to take the proportional, targeted measures we're taking now."

ALSO READ: UK's overstretched testing system 'puts recovery at risk'

A decision by Scotland's semi-autonomous government to take more stringent measures, such as banning any socializing between households, cast doubt over whether the steps taken in more populous England would be sufficient.

On the business side, the 10 pm closing time for restaurants and bars announced by Johnson was criticized as ineffective in terms of reducing transmission, but damaging to business.

Raab rejected this, saying the government's scientific advice was that the package of measures was appropriate to "bear down" on the virus.

The UK reported 4,926 new cases on Tuesday, the highest daily increase since May, pushing the tally to 403,551, according to government data. Deaths rose by 37 to 41,825.

Healthcare workers line up for free personal protective equipment in front of a mural by artist Romero Britto at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on Sept 22, 2020. (WILFREDO LEE / AP)


The United States' death toll from the novel coronavirus exceeded 200,000 on Tuesday, a grim milestone that comes eight months after the pathogen was first confirmed in the country.

The US has currently recorded more than 6.89 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 200,700 deaths, according to a real-time tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering and in some respects stunning.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US

US President Donald Trump called the milestone "a shame", alleging that things could have been worse.

“The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering and in some respects stunning,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, told CNN.

ALSO READ: US digesting coronavirus death toll of 200,000

The University of Washington’s health institute is forecasting coronavirus fatalities reaching 378,000 by year end, with the daily death toll potentially skyrocketing to 3,000 per day in December.

To fight a flare-up of infections, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared a new public health emergency and extended a face coverings mandate into November. In-person social gatherings led to cases skyrocketing among people aged 18 to 24, Evers said, as he pleaded with students who returned to colleges for the fall semester to stay out of bars and wear masks.

In New York City, Health Department has identified a new cluster of COVID-19 cases in Brooklyn, and said on Tuesday a marked uptick in infections there and in some other neighborhoods is "cause for significant concern."

In another development, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday set an Oct 16 deadline for states to submit plans for distributing COVID-19 vaccines, according to a presentation to a panel of experts who make recommendations on US vaccines.

Americans who get the first COVID-19 vaccines will be closely monitored by the US CDC through daily text messages and emails, according to a federal advisory group.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 31.6 million on Wednesday while the global death toll topped 970,000, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

READ MORE: Airlines plead for mandatory virus tests to prop up demand


Argentina reported a record daily rise of 470 COVID-19 deaths, bringing the death toll to 13,952, according to the government’s evening report. 

It’s the second day in a row Argentina has reported a record rise in fatalities. 

The government confirmed 12,027 fresh infections, taking the tally to 652,174.


A consumer rights group said on Wednesday it had filed civil lawsuits against the Austrian government over a coronavirus outbreak at the ski resort of Ischgl last winter, but it held off on a class-action suit for the time being.

The outbreak at Ischgl, which calls itself the “Ibiza of the Alps”, was Austria’s biggest and helped spread the virus across Europe. Hundreds of Austrians were infected and thousands of foreign tourists say they were too as the virus found a breeding ground in crowded apres-ski bars in February and early March.

The authorities in the province of Tyrol say they responded appropriately given what was known at the time. The private Consumer Protection Association (VSV) argues they reacted too slowly and possibly gave in to pressure from the tourism sector not to act.

"These are only the first lawsuits. Others will follow," VSV chief Peter Kolba, a consumer rights activist and former environmentalist lawmaker, said at a news conference.

The four test cases were brought on behalf of individuals, all relating to the Ischgl area, the VSV said. Damages sought are up to 100,000 euros (US$117,000) as US-style punitive damages are not available.

VSV also published an open letter to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz urging him to reach a settlement because such lawsuits could take "years if not decades".


Brazil recorded 33,536 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as well as 836 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The new figures brought the tally and death toll to 4,591,604 and 138,108, respectively, according to ministry data.


The Bulgarian government approved on Wednesday an extension to the nationwide epidemic emergency until Nov 30 in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, the cabinet said in a statement.

The extension aims to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the public health and the healthcare system, according to the statement.

So far, Bulgaria has reported a total of 19,123 COVID-19 cases and 767 deaths.  

People wearing face masks wait in line in an alley for hours at a COVID-19 assessment center at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada, Sept 22, 2020. (NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP)


COVID-19 infections have surged in Canada and if people do not take stringent precautions, they could balloon to exceed levels seen during the first wave of the pandemic, health officials warned on Monday.

“Canada is at a crossroads and individual action to reduce contact rates will decide our path,” the Public Health Agency said in a statement.

Canada is at a crossroads and individual action to reduce contact rates will decide our path.

Canada's Public Health Agency

According to a worst-case scenario outlined by the agency, cases could rise more than 1,000 per day to 155,795 by Oct 2 with the death toll hitting 9,300. On Monday, Canada had reported 145,415 total cases and 9,228 deaths.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will unveil on Wednesday what he says is a far-reaching plan to help the economy recover from the pandemic while ensuring efforts to fight the outbreak do not falter.

Meanwhile, Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced Tuesday new agreements in obtaining eventual coronavirus vaccines for Canada, and a first purchase of 150,000 vials of remdesivir, an anti-viral medication produced by Gilead Sciences Inc.

Anand said Canada had signed a deal with Sanofi and GSK for up to 72 million doses of their potential adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine, and had increased by up to 14 million doses a previous agreement for the Moderna vaccine candidate.


Colombia reported 173 deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, lifting its national death toll to 24,570, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, 7,102 new infections were reported, bringing the nationwide tally to 777,537, the ministry said. A total of 650,801 patients have so far recovered, it added.

Claudia Lopez, mayor of the capital city Bogota, said the city has returned to a "new normal", adding that commercial businesses are opening with biosecurity measures in place.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government announced that it was one of the countries chosen by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, along with other nations in the region, where tests of a possible vaccine against COVID-19 will be carried out. 

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic recorded 2,394 new infections in its second highest daily rise since the coronavirus pandemic began, Health Ministry data showed on Wednesday.

New cases have doubled in September as infections increase at the second fastest rate in Europe, for a tally of 53,158 cases since the Czech Republic's first detections in March.

Authorities have reinstated some measures to rein in the virus, such as mask-wearing and, from Thursday, stricter limits on opening hours for bars.


The number of crowds and gatherings in Ecuador increased 15 percent in the first week following the end of lockdown restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, an official source said on Tuesday.

"The latent concern we continue to have is the issue of crowds, they are on the rise. At the national level we are growing by 15 percent and in (the capital) Quito, by 12 percent," Juan Zapata, director of the country's emergency service, ECU 911, told a local TV network.

Since a state of emergency was lifted on Sept 14, authorities have reported 57,726 crowds or social gatherings, mainly in the three largest cities: Cuenca, Guayaquil and Quito.

According to the Ministry of Health, Ecuador has recorded a total of 127,643 confirmed cases and 7,330 deaths as of Tuesday.


Egypt reported early Wednesday 113 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's total infections to 102,254, said the Health Ministry.

The ministry's spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement that 19 more patients died, raising the death toll to 5,806.

Meanwhile, 811 others were cured and discharged from hospitals, taking the total recoveries to 91,143.


Ethiopia's Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday the country's tally of COVID-19 infections topped 70,000.

The tally rose to 70,422 after 713 new cases were reported, the ministry said.

According to the ministry, the death toll rose by 19 to 1,127 while the number of recoveries increased by 357 to 28,991.

This photo shows sniffer dogs and their trainer at the Helsinki airport in Vantaa, Finland, Sept 22, 2020. Four sniffer dogs are trained to detect COVID-19 from the arriving passengers samples at the airport. (ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO / LEHTIKUVA VIA AP)


Four specially trained dogs demonstrated their ability to sniff COVID-19 in people even before showing symptoms during a press conference held at Helsinki Vantaa International Airport on Tuesday. The pilot project is scheduled to commence later this week.

If a test result returns positive, the passenger would be directed to the health information point for further instructions.

Later this week, the four dogs will start working at the airport, according to Wise Nose -- Finland Smell Detection Association, which is responsible for the training and deployment of the dogs.

The trial at Helsinki Airport will last four months. Timo Aronkyto, deputy mayor of Vantaa, told the press that the dogs will definitely begin their "official activities" once the trial is deemed to be successful.

Finland has so far reported 9,195 confirmed cases and 341 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


The French government is expected to unveil tighter coronavirus restrictions for Paris on Wednesday following a cabinet meeting, BFM TV and Le Parisien newspaper said.

Among the measures planned are a ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people while attendance at major events could be limited to 1,000 people from the 5,000 allowed now, according to the reports . The sale of alcohol outdoors will be prohibited after 8 pm, according to the reports, citing several sources.

France registered on Tuesday more than 10,000 new confirmed coronavirus infections over 24-hours, for the sixth time in 12 days.

The health ministry reported 10,008 new cases to bring the tally to 468,069. Deaths rose by 78 to 31,416, the ministry said.

Hospital admissions data continued their steady climb of the past three to four weeks, with the number of people with COVID-19 in hospital up by 180 to 5,796.


The German cabinet on Wednesday approved Finance Minister Olaf Scholz's draft budget for next year which envisages net new debt of 96.2 billion euros (US$112.43 billion) to finance further measures to tackle the coronavirus crisis, an official said.

The additional borrowing marks the second-highest amount of net new debt in Europe's largest economy since the end of World War II and comes after the government already took on record high borrowing of some 218 billion euros this year.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,769 to 275,927, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.

The reported death toll rose by 13 to 9,409, the tally showed.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has gone into quarantine on Wednesday after one of his bodyguards was infected with COVID-19, said the German Foreign Office.

Maas' first test for COVID-19 was negative on Wednesday, said the office.


Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, who last week confirmed he tested positive for the coronavirus, said on Tuesday that he is a "high-risk" patient due to his pre-existing medical conditions and history of heavy smoking.

In a televised speech, Giammattei, 64, said he felt tired but also in good spirits. He added that his oxygen levels, which can often be an indicator of deteriorating health, were fine.

"I must admit that I am a high-risk patient for COVID-19 because of the disease I had," Giammattei said. He said his elevated risk levels were also due to having been "a chronic smoker for many years, because of hypertension, because of heart disease, because I can't be called a very thin person."

Guatemala has registered 85,694 infections and 3,134 deaths linked to COVID-19.


Mexico's government will formalize this week its participation in the COVAX Facility, a global initiative to ensure equitable access to any vaccines against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday.

Ebrard made the announcement at a press conference accompanied by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Participation in COVAX Facility will provide Mexico with "equitable, timely, flexible" access to 18 eventual vaccines, "and at fair prices," he said. Mexico's government has said it agreed to the "optional purchase" of dosages needed to vaccinate 20 percent of its population.

READ MORE: UN's Guterres calls for US$35b more for WHO vaccine program

Lopez Obrador said Mexico is gradually emerging from the pandemic.

Mexico's confirmed coronavirus caseload rose to 705,263 on Tuesday, according to updated data from the health ministry, along with a reported death toll of 74,348. Authorities reported 4,683 new cases along with 651 deaths on Tuesday.


Morocco reported on Tuesday 2,227 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 105,346.

The death toll rose by 34 to 1,889 while the number of recoveries increased by 1,725 to 85,883.


Peru could potentially see a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks so the public should not let their guard down, Deputy Minister of Public Health Luis Suarez warned on Tuesday.

Recent spikes in infections in countries such as Spain, Belgium and Italy are a wake-up call for countries in Latin America, he said.

Peru's infection tally has seen a sustained decline, Suarez said, adding that 772,896 people have so far been infected since the start of the outbreak.

According to the Ministry of Health, 622,418 people have recovered from the disease.


Russia on Wednesday reported 6,431 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase since July 13.

The new figures pushed Russia's national tally of cases to 1,122,241, the fourth-largest in the world.

Authorities said 150 people had died in the day, bringing the official death toll to 19,799.


Slovakia reported on Wednesday its highest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started, recording 338 infections the previous day, according to Health Ministry data.

Slovakia has one of Europe's lowest COVID-19 death tolls, but cases have spiked this month, like elsewhere on the continent.

As of Wednesday, Slovakia had 7,269 cases, of whom 3,888 had recovered and 41 other had died.

A policeman stops a vehicle at a checkpoint in the Usera neighborhood in Madrid, Spain, Sept 22, 2020. (MANU FERNANDEZ / AP)


Spain's cumulative tally of confirmed coronavirus infections rose by nearly 10,800 on Tuesday from the previous day to reach 682,267, health ministry data showed, as the region of Catalonia said it would further limit public gatherings.

That included 3,125 cases diagnosed in the last 24 hours, but these daily figures tend to end up much higher after retroactive updates of the infection tally, having exceeded 10,000 cases per day for most of last week.

With 21 deaths from the virus in the last day, the death toll has reached 30,904.

More than 10,600 people were in hospital with COVID-19, 1,348 of them in intensive care. Coronavirus patients occupied nearly 10 percent of all hospital capacity across Spain, but in hard-hit regions like Madrid that share was as high as 25.5 percent as doctors complain of a lack of staff and resources.

Health authorities in Catalonia said they would limit gatherings to six people from 10 across the northeastern region to reduce contagion.

Travel restrictions around Europe aimed at curbing coronavirus contagion ravaged Spain’s tourism industry during the crucial month of August, depriving it of millions of tourists.

The number of nights booked in Spanish hotels fell 64 percent last month from a year ago, data from the National Statistics Institute showed on Wednesday.


Zambia became the first African country to ask bondholders for relief since the onset of the coronavirus as nations from Angola to Kenya battle to cope with the economic hit from the pandemic.

The southern African nation said it needed “breathing space” to plan a debt restructuring, and asked holders of its three Eurobonds totaling US$3 billion to defer interest payments until April.

“Zambia is currently faced with unprecedented liquidity constraints that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the government said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “A combination of declining revenues and increased unbudgeted costs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in a material impact on the government’s available resources to make timely payments on its indebtedness, leading to increasing debt servicing difficulties.”


Zimbabwe will gradually reopen primary and secondary schools from Oct 26 for all pupils, ending a break of seven months that was precipitated by the coronavirus outbreak, the information minister said on Tuesday.

Tuesday's announcement by Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa came after teachers unions said their members would boycott classes to press authorities to pay them a COVID-19 risk allowance and a pay rise.

Mutsvangwa said the first group of primary and secondary pupils would go back to class on Oct 26 while the rest would follow on Nov 9.

Zimbabwe has recorded 7,706 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 226 deaths.


Hungary registered 951 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the total cases of the country to 20,450, according to the government's coronavirus information website.

There are 558 COVID-19 patients being treated in hospital at present, 35 of whom are on ventilators. To date, there have been 4,644 recoveries and 702 fatalities.

Despite the rising number of infections, the Hungarian government does not aim at locking down the country as it had done in the spring.

"As the data on new infections warn, the second wave of the epidemic is currently underway in Hungary. The government's goal is to keep the country functioning and not let the virus paralyze everyday life, so easy-to-follow, general rules are now even more important," the government noted.

Rules are basically easy to follow, they include compulsory wearing of masks in shops and closed areas such as theaters, cinemas etc. and on all public transports nationwide.

Recently, the government has also ordered bars and restaurants to close at 11 p.m. the latest, trying to avoid larger gatherings. Events gathering of more than 500 people such as concerts and festivals are still banned.

Hungary's total COVID-19 cases topped 10,000 on Sept. 10.

Countries such as Britain, China, Russia and the United States are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.  


Kenya is set to launch a 10 billion shilling (about US$92 million) micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) credit guarantee scheme in October to boost post COVID-19 economic recovery, a government official said Wednesday.

 Albert Mwenda, acting director-general, budget fiscal and economic affairs, National Treasury, told a meeting in Nairobi that the government is prioritizing facilitating small firms due to their significant contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP).


If all European Union (EU) countries agree on common criteria for travel restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, Latvia could be part of such agreement, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said on Wednesday.

"If the whole EU can find a common vision, Latvia could agree," Karins said in an interview with LTV public television.

Latvia is ready to work with its EU partners but when deciding on the issue, the highest priority for the Latvian government would be the interests of the country's people, Karins stressed.

He also noted hat the government would take into account the opinion of the epidemiologists when tightening or relaxing the travel restrictions.


Georgia reported 227 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing its national total to 4,140, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health said.

Of the new cases, 165 were confirmed in the western Adjara region, said the center.