Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 Vaccine Works Against Two Deadly Variants

The vaccine outdid the company's initial projections by seven points.
Brad Bergan

The single-shot COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson offers more protection against severe illness and death from Brazil and South Africa's variants, according to new analyses from the FDA posted online.

Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine works well against variants from South Africa and Brazil

Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine showed a 72% effectiveness rate in the U.S. — with a 64% effectiveness in South Africa, where a very contagious variant emerged last fall and continues to add more cases.

The effectiveness of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in South Africa was seven points above the initial data previously released from the company.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine also showed an 86% effectiveness rate against serious cases of COVID-19 illness in the U.S., in addition to an 82% effectiveness rate versus severe disease in South Africa.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine will accelerate inoculation rollout worldwide

In other words, people vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson's vaccine are far less likely to be hospitalized or perish from COVID-19 illness.

The new analyses also mean Americans will probably soon benefit from a third effective coronavirus vaccine brought to fruition in under a year, amid rampant and underserved demands for inoculations.

The FDA said it may authorize Johnson & Johnson's vaccine no earlier than Saturday, depending on how its vaccine advisory panel votes on Friday after considering the freshly-released documents.

"With a J&J vaccine, we'll be able to accelerate the vaccine rollout for our country and for the world," said Virologist Dan Barouch of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston — who led a great deal of research on J&J's vaccine in 2020, according to New York Times report.

White House tells governors to expect two million doses next week

However, access to the new vaccine may at first be very limited. Vice President Richard Nettles of U.S. medical affairs at Janssen Pharmaceuticals — which is the drug development arm of Johnson & Johnson — told lawmakers that nearly four million doses would be prepped for shipment once the FDA gives authorization for the vaccine — far below the 12 million initially pledged to be delivered to the U.S. before February ends.

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Officials from the White House told governors during a weekly call to expect roughly two million doses next week, an even lower estimate.

Asymptomatic effectiveness of vaccine remains unclear

Regardless, Nettles emphasized on Tuesday that a total of 20 million doses would be prepped for delivery before the end of March. As of writing, Johnson & Johnson is contracted to deliver 100 million doses before the end of June.

Notably, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine's effectiveness rate is lower than those of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech — which are both at roughly 95%. However, against the South African variant, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine appears to show superior effectiveness. So far, the analyses from FDA suggested the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine showed an efficacy rate on asymptomatic cases of 74%, but since this was for a small collective of volunteers, only time will tell how the company's vaccine will alter the medical landscape in the fight to reverse the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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