The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, with 600,000 doses set to be delivered to Ireland in the second quarter of 2021. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the fourth coronavirus vaccine to be approved by the EMA after Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, but it is the first single-shot vaccine to be approved and could greatly enhance Ireland's COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan. 

Johnson & Johnson has committed to deliver 200 million doses to the European Union this year, meaning that Ireland is in line for roughly two million doses of the jab by the end of 2021. 

The vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge and is 72% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, while it is 85% effective against severe strains of the virus and 100% effective at preventing coronavirus deaths. 

"With this latest positive opinion, authorities across the European Union will have another option to combat the pandemic and protect the lives and health of their citizens," said EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke. 

A clinical trial involving 44,000 participants found that the vaccine was effective and safe, the EMA said on Thursday. 

The FDA approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States at the end of February and President Joe Biden has made the single-shot jab a cornerstone in his plan to vaccinate the American population against the virus by the end of May. 

Biden has imposed a ban on exporting COVID-19 vaccines in his bid to vaccinate the entire adult population in just over two months, creating potential distribution problems in Europe. 

However, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has provided Johnson & Johnson with a factory in Lyon with the capacity to produce 12 million doses of the jab every month to deal with any shortfalls. 

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