What You Need To Know About The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
Dear Rich Lifer,
This past Sunday, vaccine advisors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted to recommend the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for the U.S. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky quickly signed off on the recommendation.
This comes shortly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the J&J vaccine on Saturday.
The vaccine is manufactured by Janssen, the pharmaceuticals branch of the J&J brand, and has been authorized for individuals over the age of 18.
The Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine will be the first of the authorized vaccines that comes in a single dose.
In her statement, Dr. Walensky noted:
The Janssen vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization, and death. This vaccine is also another important tool in our toolbox to equitably vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. As a one-dose vaccine, people do not have to return for a second dose to be protected. In addition, this vaccine does not need to be kept in a freezer and can be stored at refrigerated temperatures — so it is easy to transport and store and allows for expanded availability in most community settings and mobile sites, as supply scales up.
In summary, the biggest differences between J&J and the other vaccines are that it is administered in a single dose instead of two and can be kept unfrozen in an ordinary refrigerator for up to three months.
Today, we will break down everything else you need to know about this new vaccine.
The Rollout Begins
Johnson & Johnson started shipping doses out on Monday, March 3. In Ohio, 86-year old Barbara Schmalenberger was the first person in the U.S. to receive the vaccine outside of a clinical trial.
There will be 3.9 million doses available this week, but by the end of March, Johnson & Johnson says it will ship roughly 16 million more doses.
Still, this is a much more limited supply than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — for comparison, the nation is using almost 4 million doses of these vaccines in only two days. So for now, these vaccines will continue to make up the majority of the nation’s supply.
How is this Vaccine Different?
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a nonreplicating viral vector vaccine, a method with decades of research behind it.
Remember, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which work differently than viral vector vaccines.
The J&J vaccine uses adenovirus, a common cold virus that can enter cells but can’t make new virus particles when it is modified.
Researchers add the gene for the coronavirus spike protein—the protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2—to this modified adenovirus. When injected into a person’s arm, the adenovirus carries this genetic material into human cells and trains the immune system to react against the coronavirus.
Unlike mRNA vaccines, which must be stored at -20 degrees Celsius, adenovirus vaccines can be refrigerated for up to three months at 36–46 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it much easier to distribute at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, clinics, or anywhere else without special freezers or storage units.
The vaccine was tested in more than 44,000 people in the U.S., South Africa and Latin America. According to the FDA, globally, it was 66.1% effective against moderate to severe/critical Covid-19 at least four weeks after vaccination.
In the U.S. the vaccine is said to be 72% effective and offered 86% protection against severe forms of the disease. Pfizer and Moderna’s shots each were shown to be about 95 percent protective against symptomatic Covid disease.
However, experts warn against the dangers of comparing one efficacy to the other because the various trials were conducted in different locations and at different times.
For example, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines were tested before troubling new variants of the virus emerged in Britain, South Africa and elsewhere.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University School of Public Health, noted:
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested against the South Africa variant in South Africa, tested against the variant in Brazil. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines weren’t, we are not comparing the same thing. When you look at what we really compare about which is preventing hospitalizations and deaths, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes in at 100% once it’s had a chance to work.
Who Will Get the Vaccine?
This is still under discussion, but the CDC says the vaccine can be administered to people 18 and older; state officials will have to work out their individual policies.
Some experts and officials have suggested directing this vaccine toward harder-to-reach parts of the population since it only requires one dose and is easier to store. Such groups may include rural residents, homeless people, those with mobility issues, those in the justice system, or college students.
Right now, there is no way to pick which vaccine you will be given. Appointment and scheduling systems usually don’t tell people beforehand which vaccine they will receive.
Depending on how states decide to distribute the J&J vaccine, you may soon be able to effectively choose your vaccine by picking a specific vaccination site.
Which Should I Choose?
Right now, health experts are strongly encouraging people to get the first shot available to them.
All three authorized vaccines are highly protective, and the differences among them pale in comparison with the risk involved in being picky and passing up a chance to get a shot because it was not your top choice.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says:
These are three highly efficacious vaccines. I can tell you I have been fully vaccinated with one that was available. It was the Moderna. If I were not vaccinated now and I had a choice of getting a J&J vaccine now or waiting for another vaccine, I would take whatever vaccine would be available to me as quickly as possible.
Basically, what it comes down to is getting whatever vaccine you can as soon as you are eligible. The J&J vaccine may have a smaller efficacy number, but it is highly effective in preventing serious illness and will be much easier to distribute once production ramps up later this month.
President Joe Biden recently said the U.S. would have enough Covid-19 vaccines for all American adults by the end of May.
This gives us a much more optimistic look at the rest of 2021, as vaccines would allow our business and schools to open safely and for loved ones to finally be reunited.
To a Richer Life,
The Rich Life Roadmap Team