SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego is expected to receive its first shipment of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine this week after it received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The medical community has been heralding the vaccine because it only requires traditional refrigerated storage and a single-dose, making it significantly easier to store and distribute than the other two vaccines available.
“This one-and-done approach is actually really great and I think it could be a game-changer,” said Abisola Olulade, M.D. with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “The fact that it doesn't require the ultra-cold storage that the Pfizer vaccine, for example, requires is also really awesome. It can really help us in terms of getting the supply out there.”
Johnson & Johnson is trying to overcome the potential the public may perceive the vaccine is less effective than others already authorized.
Data submitted to the FDA showed it is about 72% effective in the U.S. and 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19.
Comparatively, vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna were 95% effective when they were trialed.
However, medical experts say the trial results cannot be compared against each other. There are several new and more dangerous variants circulating now. J&J also had trials in communities where new strains were observed, including South Africa and Brazil. About 2,000 San Diegans also participated in the Phase 3 trial.
The trial found the vaccine had 85% efficacy against severe illness and no trial participants died a month after getting their first shot.
"What people, I think, are mostly interested in is, is it going to keep me from getting really sick? Will this vaccine keep me out of the hospital, out of the ICU? And worse yet, will it keep me from dying from this terrible disease? The good news is all of these say yes to that,” said Francis Collins, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health.
Johnson & Johnson expects to ship four million doses across the U.S. this week with millions more expected by the end of the month. The exact number of vaccines San Diego will receive is unknown.
County Health officials have not announced whether it will be distributed at large vaccination superstations or smaller points of distribution (PODs) and mobile clinics held in rural parts of the county.
“It really would be a great vaccine to take out into those locations to vaccinate individuals that are hard to reach, like homeless individuals, much like we did when vaccinating [against] hepatitis A,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., San Diego County’s Public Health Officer.
Trials are underway to determine whether a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is necessary. Separately, Pfizer and Moderna are also studying if a booster is needed to help protect against new variants.
Medical experts encourage those who are eligible to receive the vaccine to get vaccinated as soon as possible regardless of what brand is available or potential need for future doses.
“That should not cause anyone to be hesitant to get this vaccine, get this vaccine. Get it quickly. That's really the message to everyone,” said Olulade. “[Johnson & Johnson] is an effective vaccine. It's a safe vaccine. The best vaccine is one that you can get. The more people we can get vaccinated, the better because we do have these variants circulating and it gets us closer to the end of this pandemic.”