Why The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Is A Game Changer

The FDA looks like it'll approve the vaccine as soon as Saturday. Here's why it's a game changer.

by Isabella Bridie DeLeo
Originally Published: 
vaccines are administered by someone wearing PPE

A new analysis from the Food and Drug Administration confirms that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine offers strong protection against serious illness and fatality against COVID-19. The finding and endorsement will likely pave the way for its emergency authorization approval this week.

Why Does The FDA Endorsement Matter?

This vote of confidence could end up having a positive impact on the country’s vaccination distribution plan and on slowing the rate of transmission, hospitalizations and potentially lowering the death toll, which as of Monday was a somber and staggering 500,000 Americans lost.

The FDA could authorize the vaccine as early as Saturday, depending on a panel vote on Friday and a limited supply of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could begin its rollout as soon as next week, according to The New York Times. The recent analysis found that the vaccine is 72% effective overall in the U.S. and 64% in South Africa. Crucially, it is 86% effective at preventing severe illness in the States and 82% in South Africa.

William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, said, “The availability of the J&J vaccine will be a terrific asset,” adding, “That could help us get through the bottleneck that we’re in at the present time,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

How Is The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Different Than Moderna’s and Pfizer’s?

The Johnson & Johnson differs from the two other vaccines currently available in the U.S. — the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — which both boast higher efficacy rates. But unlike these two, the Johnson & Johnson only requires a single dose, and can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures for upwards of three months, which would make it easier to distribute as the cold-storage hurdle won’t be as much of an issue for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

And while there seems like there’s a huge difference between a vaccine being 72% effective and upwards of 90% effective, 72% effective is still, well, quite effective. Someone who receives the J&J vaccine will have their personal risk of getting COVID-19 dropped by a whopping 72%, in a single jab, quickly after being vaccinated. For context, the 2020 influenza vaccine was only 45 percent effective, which is still considered pretty good. These vaccines are strong and powerful.

The analysis also found that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has “milder” side effects than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, according to The New York Times, plus there were no reports of allergic reactions from taking it.

Here’s What’s Next For The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Four million doses could be ready to be shipped at the end of the month, pending FDA approval on Saturday, which seems like a given at this point, just a matter of time.

Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center explained, “With a J&J vaccine, we’ll be able to accelerate the vaccine rollout for our country and for the world,” as per The New York Times. And while any extra jabs are good news, four million doses are significantly below the twelve million that Johnson & Johnson initially pledged for February.

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