Third Vaccine on the Way
On January 29, 2021, Johnson and Johnson unveiled their new COVID-19 vaccine that has proven to be 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease in a global Phase 3 trial.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said in a statement: “A vaccine that’s inexpensive, that’s a single dose, and that has no cold chain requirement -- that’s pretty good.” Thus, after completing its three phase trials, Johnson and Johnson has developed an affordable, effective and single-dose vaccine that will be distributed in March if the FDA grants the company an emergency use authorization.
During Johnson and Johnson’s 30-day global study, they found that the vaccine’s efficacy rate varied in different countries - 72% in the United States, 57% in Africa and 66% in Latin America. The company’s global head of research and development, Dr. Mathai Mammen, said in a statement, “Across all geographies, across all variants, we see 85% protection [against severe disease.]”
In addition, Johnson and Johnson stated that the trend increased over time with no severe cases in the vaccinated group after the 49th day. Once the company applies for an emergency use authorization from the FDA, it will become the third company to distribute its vaccine to millions of Americans.
Unlike Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine contains a weakened common cold virus, known as adenovirus, that carries genetic instructions into the body to prompt a response from the immune system. In an interview with CNN, Dr. Mammen said that the vaccine was well-tolerated, with a “vanilla, even boring, safety data set” that reported no cases of a severe allergic response known as anaphylaxis. According to the study, around 1 in 11 participants had a fever, though only 0.2% were considered “Grade 3.”
In a telephone interview with CNN, Dr. Fauci stated that Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine would have had better results if it did not have to compete with Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines. Fauci explained: “You know what the problem is? If this were out there and we didn’t have the Moderna 94-95% …. We would have said wow, a 72% effective vaccine that’s even more effective against severe disease is really terrific.” Mr. Fauci further said, “But now we’re always judging it against 94-95%. Having said that, this is a vaccine that could have use particularly in developing countries to keep people out of the hospital. It has a very good efficacy rate against severe disease.”
Dr. Mammen also explained how Johnson and Johnson’s new COVID-19 vaccine differs from its competitors. The doctor explained that it’s more affordable, does not need to be stored in freezers like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, and only requires a single dose. “We really wanted it to be a single dose. So we optimized our antigen so that we get enough immunogenicity after one dose, as opposed to two,” Mammen said. Dr. Fauci shared that the medical device company is currently testing a two-dose regimen of the vaccine that could possibly increase the efficacy rate. He remarked, “Let’s see what that shows. It could possibly bring it up to 90%. Heck, if you got 72% with a single dose, you would think you would do pretty good with a boost.”
Lastly, the United States government has contracted to buy 100 million doses of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine, which is expected to arrive in June. The company has said that it is on track to produce a billion does of the vaccine worldwide. Hence, with the third vaccine on its way, our country will be more prepared to defeat the virus.