Is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine any different from the others?

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/NewsNation Now/AP) — Americans now have a third vaccine to help defend against COVID-19.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the Johnson & Johnson vaccination that works with only one dose instead of two.

“This is really good news,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told The Associated Press Saturday. “The most important thing we can do right now is to get as many shots in as many arms as we can.”

With three vaccines now available, some are asking what the differences are between the J&J vaccine and the other two that have been available.

While there is no apples-to-apples comparison because of differences in when and where each company conducted its studies, here are some answers to some questions that some may have.


Efficacy:

The FDA said J&J’s vaccine is 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 and 66% effective in moderate cases.

Pfizer and Moderna’s shots, both of which are two-dose, were found to be about 95% effective against COVID-19.

“The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines were enrolling patients and gathering data last summer. So June, July, August, that was a timeframe,” said Rodney Young, M.D. with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. “The Johnson and Johnson vaccine, those trials were conducted during November, December, January, when now coronavirus activity was very widespread across the country, a lot more cases to transmit and spread around there.”

J&J’s vaccine was tested in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa at a time when more contagious mutated versions of the virus were spreading. That was not the case last fall when Pfizer and Moderna were wrapping up testing, and it is still not clear if their numbers would hold against the most worrisome of those variants.

“It really is not an apples-to-apples comparison to say that the Johnson and Johnson didn’t work as well as Pfizer return. It’s entirely possible that if we repeated the Pfizer and Moderna studies now, they might have similar or comparable responses to what we saw with Johnson and Johnson,” said Dr. Young.

Age Clearance:

The vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in adults 18 and older for now. Like other manufacturers, J&J is about to study how it works in teens before moving to younger children later in the year, and also plans a study in pregnant women.

Side Effects:

The main side effects of the J&J Shot are like those of the other two vaccines: pain at the injection site and flu-like fever, fatigue and headache.

Safety:

While the FDA found J&J’s vaccine safe and effective, some experts fear that lower effectiveness could feed public perceptions that J&J’s shot is a “second-tier vaccine.”

Storage:

It can be stored up to three months at refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to handle than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which must be frozen.


Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, weighing in on the subject of comparison in an interview with Chuch Todd on “Meet the Press,” saying, “Be careful when you try to parse these ‘this percent versus that.’ The only way you know one versus the other if you compare them head-to-head and they were not compared head-to-head; they were compared under different circumstances.”

So should you pick and choose which vaccine you would rather take? Dr. Fauci said people should take the one that is most available to them.
“If you go to a place and you have J&J and that’s the one that’s available now, I would take it. I personally would do the same thing. I think people need to get vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible and if I were to go to a place where they had J&J I would have no hesitancy whatsoever to take it,” Fauci told Todd.

“In this environment, whatever you can get — get,” said Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan, who chaired an FDA advisory panel that unanimously voted Friday that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks.

“What people I think are mostly interested in is, is it going to keep me from getting really sick?” Collins said. “Will it keep me from dying from this terrible disease? The good news is all of these say yes to that.”

Almost 4 million doses of the new vaccine were shipped out Sunday night. They will start being delivered to states starting Tuesday. J&J will deliver about 16 million more doses by the end of March and 100 million total by the end of June.

Another grim milestone this week. Feb. 29, 2020, was the first COVID-19 death in the U.S. that was reported by the CDC.

At the time, there were less than two dozen reported cases of COVID-19 in the country.

So far, the virus has killed more than 500,000 Americans.

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