On Saturday, Feb. 27, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Johnson&Johnson’s COVID vaccine had been approved from emergency use authorization (EUA), having confirmed its safety and benefits. And while some have balked at its efficacy rate—it was found to be 72 percent effective in the U.S. and 66 percent effective overall at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 28 days after vaccination—experts say there’s one area in which its record is flawless. The new Johnson&Johnson vaccine is reportedly 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. Read on for everything you need to know about the new vaccine’s efficacy, and to learn about another vaccine that may already be benefiting you, This Other Vaccine Could Already Be Protecting You From COVID, Study Says.
Compared to Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID vaccines, which tout overall efficacy levels hovering around 95 percent, it’s easy to see why 66 percent efficacy has earned some scrutiny. But according to Nancy M. Bennett, MD, a professor of medicine and public health sciences at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, we should focus instead on its ability to prevent severe or lethal cases.
“We know this vaccine prevents 85 percent of the severe disease…It was 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and deaths, and that’s really what’s important,” she recently told The Washington Post. “Those facts are the most important thing to recognize.”
According to the Johnson&Johnson website, the shot “demonstrated complete protection against COVID-related hospitalization and death, 28 days post-vaccination. There was a clear effect of the vaccine on COVID-19 cases requiring medical intervention (hospitalization, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), with no reported cases among participants who had received the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, 28 days post-vaccination."
Experts have expressed concern over the public cherry-picking their vaccine, and warn that the gap between the various vaccines’ efficacy data may be misleading. Pfizer and Moderna were tested before new variants emerged, while the Johnson&Johnson vaccine was tested later against more complicated strains, they explain.
The new vaccine has other notable benefits: most importantly, it could streamline the vaccine rollout because it’s easier to store and requires just one dose rather than two. But if the public hesitates based on overall efficacy rates, many say it could undermine the logistical benefits of the Johnson&Johnson shot. “Vaccines that transform the virus from a potentially fatal disease into a nuisance illness could end the pandemic, unless they aren’t widely adopted,” concludes The Washington Post. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the Johnson&Johnson vaccine, and to learn what to avoid after vaccination, Don’t Do This Until a Month After Your COVID Vaccine, Experts Warn.
We’ll have 20 million doses by March.
Beyond the obvious benefits of a single-dose vaccine, the Johnson&Johnson candidate will speed up the rollout because it’s got millions of doses ready for distribution by next month. “There is going to be a ramp-up period, so 4 million doses expected next week, going higher during the month of March with 20 million doses delivered by the end of March,” said former FDA Commissioner, Mark McClellan, MD, in a recent interview for CNBC. “So that’s 20 million people fully vaccinated since it’s just one dose for the vaccine.”
“That’s coming on top of some expansions in the supply from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, they’re expecting close to 90 million, 100 million doses…it’s a two-dose vaccine, but that all together means we could get to as many as 100 million people or more vaccinated by the end of March here in the United States,” he added. And for the latest COVID news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
It’s earned Dr. Fauci’s endorsement.
White House COVID advisor Anthony Fauci, MD, has said that news of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine’s safety and efficacy is “nothing but good news.” In a separate interview, he hailed the company's recently announced achievements as "spectacular results."
"I urge everyone to receive the vaccine that is made available to you," Fauci said during a recent Twitter Q&A. Like Bennett, Fauci focused on the vaccines’ effects on severe cases, saying that all three vaccine options are “highly effective in preventing severe disease." And for a list of side effects from the newest vaccine, These Are the Side Effects of the New Johnson&Johnson Vaccine, FDA Says.
Protection was consistent across race, age, and variant type.
According to the Johnson&Johnson website, their vaccine candidate offers protection that is “generally consistent across race, age groups, including adults over 60 years of age, and across all variants and regions studied, including South Africa where nearly all cases of COVID-19 (95 percent) were due to infection with a SARS-CoV-2 variant from the B.1.351 lineage.” This means that regardless of your background or circumstances, you should consider it a viable option for protecting against COVID.
It works a bit differently from the other vaccines.
The Johnson&Johnson vaccine is considered a “non-replicating viral vector vaccine” which uses a common cold virus called adenovirus 26. The adenovirus enters cells and prompts them to make pieces of COVID’s spike protein, but cannot replicate within the body, or make you sick with coronavirus. The immune system reacts to this perceived threat, training it for the event that it is later confronted with the real virus.
"So you're not being infected with the virus that can give you COVID-19 when you get this vaccine. It just has some of the harmless COVID virus proteins on its surface," William Schaffner, MD, an internist and infectious disease specialist with Vanderbilt University's Department of Health Policy, explained to CNN. "Essentially it's a sheep in wolf's clothing, and when your immune system sees it, it responds to it and creates protection against it and in the future, against the real virus that causes COVID-19." And to learn whether you should talk to a doctor first, If You Take This Common Medication, Talk to a Doctor Before Your Vaccine.