U.S. regulators have approved Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID vaccine, allowing millions more Americans to get vaccinated and prepare the vaccine for additional approvals around the world.
The J&J vaccine is the third vaccine authorized in the United States after those from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna, both of which require two doses.
COVID-19 has claimed more than half a million lives in the United States, and states are calling for more doses to stem cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
In a global trial of 44,000 people conducted by Johnson & Johnson, the vaccine was found to be 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 four weeks after inoculation.
It was 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death from the virus.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are based on new messenger RNA technology, showed higher efficacy rates in the pivotal trials that used two doses compared to J & J’s single-injection vaccine.
Direct comparison, however, is difficult as the trials served different purposes and the J&J was conducted as new, more contagious variants of the virus circulated.
Dr William Schaffner, infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, said: “This could potentially play a very important role if we have enough doses because it is only a single dose vaccine and this will make it attractive to people who are hard to reach.
“It is one and it is done.”
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President Joe Biden welcomed the move, but warned Americans against celebrating too soon.
“Things are likely to get even worse as new variants spread,” he said in a statement, urging people to continue to wash their hands, wear masks and maintain their social distances .
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume victory is inevitable,” he added.
The US government, which has purchased 100 million doses of the J&J vaccine, plans to distribute around 3 to 4 million next week. This would be in addition to the roughly 16 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines the government was already planning to ship across the country.
So far, the United States has distributed more than 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, some of which have been used for second injections. About 14% of Americans have received at least one dose, according to US government data.