By Constance M. Gistand, MD, MPH, FACP
On Saturday, Feb. 27, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a third coronavirus vaccine for emergency use authorization throughout the nation. The vaccine produced by Johnson and Johnson was subsequently approved for use by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for use in those 18 years and older. The vaccine will began distributed across the nation as early as Monday March 1. This is great news in the fight against this global pandemic because it adds another tool to aid in combatting this deadly virus.
Unlike the other vaccines on the market, the J&J vaccine only requires one dose and it does not require ultra-cold storage. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Sunday, “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.”
Although we are seeing a decrease in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the U.S., public health officials caution against relaxing restrictions across the nation too soon as more contagious variants are on the rise. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials were conducted globally in regions of the world during the time in which many of the newly identified variants were prevalentcausing high degrees of hospitalizations and death. The results showed that the vaccine was efficacious in preventing severe disease and death four weeks after vaccination even in the presence of circulating variants. Although the clinical trial of all three of the approved vaccines were conducted at different times and with different levels of circulating variant strains, all three approved coronavirus vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death. Because of this, health experts strongly advise Americans to take whichever vaccine is available to them when they are eligible.
According to the CDC, over 75 million vaccine dosages have been administered and over 24 million people have received both dosages. While many states and communities have struggled with the demand for the vaccine outpacing the available supply, adding a third highly effective vaccine will certainly aid in increasing vaccination rates and achieving herd immunity.