Covid-19 Update: Johnson & Johnson Approved
On Saturday, February 27th, the FDA officially authorized the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, adding another option for immunization in the United States. While authorization increases healthcare officials' hope for increased inoculation rates due to the fact that it only requires one dose, studies show that the vaccine also has lower efficacy rates than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
According to the Washington Post, “The Johnson & Johnson efficacy rate is 66 percent overall and 72 percent in the United States in preventing moderate to severe cases of Covid-19.”
However, this doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t worth having around. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved before new variants appeared, meaning their efficacy rates were not tested in the same environment as Johnson & Johnson. Therefore, no direct comparison can be made between the three vaccines.
Additionally, according to NPR, Johnson & Johnson has been proven to effectively decrease hospitalizations and deaths, which would take pressure off of hospitals and healthcare workers.
"This certainly provides protection against what you care about, which is hospitalization, ICU admission and death. It's virtually 100% effective at doing that,” said a member of the FDA’s advisory panel, Dr. Paul Offit.
Officials also face controversy over the distribution of these vaccines. Because Johnson & Johnson only requires one dose, it will likely be distributed to areas that are harder to reach, but according to the Washington Post, this could prove counterproductive. Governors and health officials worry that branding may cause people to reject the Johnson & Johnson vaccine under the belief that the Moderna and Pfizer brands are superior. In countries like Germany, this effect has taken place, with residents refusing to take AstraZeneca in favor of the Pfizer brand vaccine.
The perception of this vaccine hierarchy could illustrate the inherent inequalities that plague America’s healthcare system. In response to these concerns, the Biden administration has promised to provide all communities with an equal supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Additionally, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urges all U.S. residents to get the vaccine that is most available to them, regardless of their branding.
Nevertheless, the introduction of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine into the U.S. inoculation system provides promise that the country will be able to return back to normal soon. On Sunday, February 28th, the first 4 million doses were shipped out nationwide. Officials expect 16 million additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of March and 100 million doses by the end of June.