Why the J&J vaccine could be a logistics game changer

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Food and Drug Administration’s report that Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and protects against severe illness is welcomed news for those tasked with inoculating the public.

The regulating agency confirmed Wednesday the single-dose shot is about 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19. That efficacy rate is even higher, 85%, against the most serious illness.

Perhaps the most promising aspect of the vaccine analysis is that 28 days after vaccination, there were no hospitalizations or deaths for those who received the shot.

Kent County Health Department Immunization Supervisor Mary Wisinski says that takeaway is more important than comparing efficacy rates related to preventing illness altogether — both Moderna and Pfizer were 95% effective at protection against the virus.

“A better thing to look at is how effective these vaccines are at reducing severe disease, hospitalizations and even deaths. When you look at those safety profiles, all three of these vaccines are equally as effective,” Wisinski said. “So, I don’t want people to get the idea that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is less than the other two because it’s absolutely not.”

If given emergency use authorization by the FDA, the J&J shot would be the third vaccine available in the U.S., but the first that doesn’t require special storage and a second appointment.

“The first two vaccines, as soon as you take them out and mix them, they’re only good for six hours and then you have to hope you have the allocation for the second dose when you schedule that clinic. So, I think it’s going to be a great option for those communities that are a little more difficult to reach and it will make it easier for more providers to have this vaccine, so we have more health care workers helping to get vaccine into arms,” Wisinski added.

Previously, the division chief of infectious diseases at Mercy Health told News 8 the benefits of the J&J shot outweigh a lower overall efficacy rate than the Pfizer and Moderna shots.

“Distribution, storage, traveling, it’s going to make that so much simpler because a lot of our logistics are really hampered by that cold chain,” Dr. Andrew Jameson said when the initial findings were published last month. “It’s going to do exactly what we want, which is mitigate deaths and help prevent hospitalizations.”

Earlier this week, J&J said to expect 20 million doses available by the end of March and 100 million by the summer if it receives authorization.

The FDA advisory panel will meet Friday to further discuss the vaccine.

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