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Why Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best shot

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Why Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best shot

A clinical trial volunteer participates in the Johnson & Johnson study to test a vaccine against the coronavirus. Janssen

  • Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines were nearly perfect at preventing symptomatic infections in trials.

  • Johnson & Johnson’s shot has some advantages: it’s cheap, easy, and smooth, and it works against variants.

  • The truth is, you can’t choose which vaccine you get anyway, so it’s a good thing they all work.

  • Visit Insider’s Business section for more stories.

Americans have had two extremely similar licensed COVID-19 vaccines since December: an mRNA vaccine from Pfizer and another mRNA vaccine from Moderna.

But now there is another coronavirus vaccine cleared for use across the United States: the Johnson & Johnson adenovirus jab, which got the green light from the United States Food and Drug Administration on Saturday. after a panel of experts unanimously recommended Friday night that it should be given an emergency. use the authorization.

In trials around the world, J & J’s vaccine has been shown to be 66% effective in preventing coronavirus infections and 85% effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19, when given four weeks for take effect.

Taken literally, it may not sound as good as the two-dose vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer, both of which were over 94% effective in their 2020 trials.

But don’t be fooled by the buffet of incomplete vaccine data we have. Comparing the efficacy rates between different vaccine trials conducted at different times is like comparing apples and oranges. This is why Dr Anthony Fauci and other experts said they would just take whatever photo they could get.

And for some people, getting the J&J vaccine may be ideal.

Young people, healthy people, and those who can’t necessarily afford to come back for a second vaccine, may prefer it, and others who don’t tolerate the side effects of the vaccine well might like it better, too. Additionally, you should consider that J&J’s shot was tested during the height of the pandemic, which may have had an effect on the numbers in the trial.

While it may not eliminate the disease, J & J’s jab is resistant to preventing COVID-19’s worst outcomes – hospitalization and death. Plus, it’s cheap to make, easy to give and get, and you’ll get good viral protection in just a few weeks, without ever having to come back for a second injection. As an added bonus, you might be better protected than anyone against some new variants that are spreading quickly.

In short, this vaccine could be the pandemic escape hatch we’ve been waiting for – helping to immunize millions more Americans at a breakneck rate.

Experts are delighted to have a single dose vaccine

Why Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best shot

An employee of McKesson Corp. packs a box of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in a cooler in Shepherdsville, Ky. on Monday. Timothy Easley / AFP via Getty Images

The most obvious benefit of the J&J vaccine is that it is just one shot.

“It’s good to have a single-dose vaccine,” New England Journal of Medicine editor Eric Rubin said Friday night after the vote. “The demand is so great that it clearly has a place.”

The rest of the FDA committee agreed.

“What we need to keep in mind is that we are still in the midst of this deadly pandemic,” said Archana Chatterjee, committee member, Dean of Chicago Medical School. “There is a shortage of vaccines that are currently licensed, and I think licensing this vaccine will help meet the needs at the moment.”

Adding millions of more vaccines to the United States’ vaccine arsenal will help bolster the nation’s herd immunity. And one hit can do it faster than two. Not only is the J&J vaccine easier to distribute, not requiring a second appointment, but it is also much cheaper to produce than mRNA injections – making it an excellent tool for combating the pandemic in the world. whole world. (All licensed COVID-19 vaccines are, under federal law, free to everyone in the United States.)

It works especially well in young people

Why Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best shot

RN Courtney Senechal carries a refrigerated box of Moderna coronavirus vaccine for use at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center on December 24. JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP via Getty Images

For younger and healthier people, the convenience factor of a single-shot vaccine is not trivial.

People under the age of 60 are generally not at great risk of major complications from COVID-19 in the first place, and are more likely to have trouble taking time off from work, but getting the vaccine is still imperative. .

They can do their part to fight the pandemic without having to schedule two immunization appointments (or accidentally skip the second). With J & J’s shot, immune protection will become robust within a month, without having to come back for a second booster.

Fortunately, this new vaccine works particularly well in the under 60 age group as well. In J&J’s trial, people under the age of 60 were well protected against serious infections: only 58 of more than 8,200 who were fully vaccinated developed moderate to severe illness after their injection had time to take effect. . In the similarly sized control group, 180 contracted moderate to severe COVID-19 infections.

J & J’s shot is also the only one the FDA has looked at, so far, that shows that it helps prevent people from spreading the virus asymptomatically. This is particularly useful for young people, as well as essential workers and people experiencing homelessness who may not be able to distance themselves socially and who already face more barriers to accessing vaccination sites or test.

While more research is needed to be sure, data from J&J suggests their vaccine may be around 74% effective against asymptomatic infections. This means it could be a great tool to help achieve nationwide herd immunity, stopping the silent and undetected spread of the virus.

It’s safe and probably doesn’t require a day off

Two-dose mRNA injections of Pfizer and Moderna have more serious side effects than those of J&J. Although temporary, fever, chills, and general discomfort can be experienced throughout the day. after getting their second injection (called a booster) can be bad enough to affect their daily plans.

Many people who have had a strong reaction to their second injection of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine recommend that others take a day off after shot 2, or schedule their appointment for the weekend. But not everyone can afford to do this.

J & J’s vaccine is also more convenient for providers. It is less fragile, so it can be kept in a regular refrigerator for three months, without requiring any of the hypercold storage mRNA vaccines. This could make it an indispensable tool in rural areas. The vaccine may also be a better choice for some people who are allergic to polyethylene glycol.

It’s the only vaccine we know of that works against real-world variants.

Pfizer and Moderna set the bar very high as first vaccines with the results of late stage studies.

“We now have a vaccine that has good efficacy that everyone is going to compare to existing vaccines and say it’s not as good,” Rubin said.

But there is more to J&J’s bottom line than just this single number.

“What’s really important to remember about this vaccine is that when we did our clinical trials, from around October 2020 to around January 2021, it was around the time when the incidence rate of the virus was really at its peak, ”said the CEO of J&J. Alex Gorsky told NBC’s “Today” show on Monday.

J & J’s vaccine is also the only vaccine with rigorous clinical data showing success in many countries where variants of the virus spread rapidly. In particular, J & J’s shot was 64% effective in South Africa, where virtually all local illnesses during the study were caused by the B.1.351 variant.

Mathai Mammen, head of research and development at J&J, told Insider that the company’s shot was “co-optimized” for antibody and T cell responses to the virus, unlike Pfizer and Moderna.

“It makes our vaccine potentially really good against a virus that is evolving on us,” he said. “We are concerned that mRNA vaccines do not have this network of T cells and are in fact much more affected by the South African variant.”

The mutations seen in the B.1.351 variant have worried vaccine developers to the point that Moderna and Pfizer are now developing new boosters of their vaccine, designed to neutralize the affected variant.

Moderna and Pfizer are confident that their shots will always provide protection, at least partially, against these worrisome variants. J & J’s photo, on the other hand, provides certainty that this is the case.

“We are in a race between mutating the virus, releasing new variants that can cause new diseases and stopping it,” said Dr. Jay Portnoy, consumer representative on the FDA committee. “We have to get this vaccine out.”

You could get a little sick

Even though J & J’s vaccination does not completely eliminate the disease, it does make COVID-19 tolerable.

People who were vaccinated with J & J’s bite during the trial, but who became ill – in what are called “rupture” infections – had much milder symptoms.

Dr James Hildreth, also a member of the FDA’s expert advisory committee, said this was an “important point” about the shooting.

It’s similar to what happens with annual flu shots: they tend to ease flu symptoms and shorten illnesses, when and if people get infected. This will be an important feature of any good coronavirus vaccine, as COVID-19 becomes endemic.

From four weeks after vaccination, no one receiving J & J’s vaccine was hospitalized. There were also no deaths among the vaccinated participants (seven people who received the unnecessary placebo vaccine died during the vaccine study in South Africa).

“The effectiveness in preventing relatively mild or even moderate disease may be different,” Dr. Cody Meissner, infectious disease expert at the Tufts School of Medicine, told the FDA meeting on Friday, speaking about the differences between Pfizer , Moderna and J&J.

“Yet all vaccines appear to be equally effective in preventing very serious illness, intensive care needs and death.”

And isn’t that what all the best vaccines are designed for? Keep us alive and free from serious disease.

Like virologist Angela Rasmussen said on Twitter on Wednesday, “I take it.”

She added, “I would recommend it to my parents and older relatives as well.”

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