On Saturday, Feb. 27, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) became the third COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use in the United States. However, unlike its predecessors, the J&J vaccine only requires one dose instead of two, which is something health experts have been waiting for.
“I think since there is only one vaccine to be given, it will affect the speed of the vaccine and more people will be able to get vaccinated quicker,” said Dr. Theresa Soltis, a professor in Sacred Heart University’s nursing program.
The J&J vaccine study spanned over three continents, and results were 66% effective in preventing COVID-19, 85% effective against severe disease, and 100% effective in preventing hospitalizations and death.
These results vary country-to-country.
“If you look at the U.S. only, it was found to be 72% effective,” said Prof. Kimberly Foito.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) study detected no serious side effects from the vaccine. The main side effects were pain at the injection site, flu-like fever, fatigue and headaches.
As of this publication, the vaccine has only been approved for adults over 18, but J&J is planning to study how it works on teens, younger children and pregnant women later in the year.
J&J shipped 4 million doses across the country on Monday, March 1.
“I am volunteering at a COVID vaccine clinic tomorrow and administering J&J vaccines for over 800 people in just one day,” said Soltis.
By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S. and 100 million by the end of June. They aim to produce 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year.
“I think it’s possible to achieve these goals thanks to the help of many volunteers– medical and nonmedical,” said Soltis. “It takes a village to get this pandemic under control.”
This vaccine is being administered faster than Pfizer and Moderna vaccines because it only requires one dose.
“It will accelerate the rate of vaccine rollout because people receiving J&J will only need to book one appointment or walk-in to a pop-in clinic,” said Foito. “For those who are fearful of injections, for people living in areas of the country where cold-storage is a luxury, or those living in communities where access to follow-up care is challenging.”
Local health officials are looking to use J&J in mobile vaccination clinics, homeless shelters, and for those whose occupations leave them unable to return for a second dose, such as those working on fishing vessels.
Another benefit of J&J is that it lasts three months in a refrigerator, whereas Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be kept frozen.
“I think this plays a huge role not only in the rate of production, but also the ease of transportation for this vaccine,” said junior Rebecca Oliveira.
According to Associated Press, some people in some countries are refusing the J&J vaccine to wait for another kind because of its 66% effectiveness rate, but that does not seem to be a problem locally.
“For the most part, patients aren’t asking for a particular product, they are just so thankful to be vaccinated,” said Foito.
Although J&J’s effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 is lower than other vaccines, it makes up for it in its protection against COVID-19 variants.
“The J&J vaccine data reflects efficiency against variants, whereas the others do not,” said Foito. “That’s because the timeline for approval for Pfizer and Moderna occurred before the variants were known or widespread.”
J&J is currently testing two doses of its vaccine in a separate study. If a second dose is deemed better, people who got one earlier will be offered another.
“I’m not eligible for the vaccine yet, but if I were, I wouldn’t have a preference between the three,” said Oliveira.
With a third vaccine now in rotation and more predicted to be approved soon, a greater number of people will be eligible for the vaccine in coming months.
“As a nurse and an educator, I encourage everybody to get vaccinated,” said Soltis.