On Feb. 27, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued another emergency use authorization for a coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. This is the third COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved by the FDA for emergency use. With the approval, hopes rise for expanded vaccine outreach.
While Moderna and Pfizer used a new technology called mRNA to create their vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses viruses to deliver a piece of DNA that creates a replica of a spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The body is able to make these spike proteins for a short amount of time after receiving the vaccine, which allows the immune system to react defensively and produce an immune response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is a tried and true method in vaccines for other viruses that presents several advantages to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The most notable difference between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the other COVID-19 vaccines is that it only requires one dose instead of two. Unlike the other vaccines that must be stored at extremely low temperature, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures for up to three months. This will make the Johnson & Johnson vaccine easier to distribute and store, making it a good option for remote areas and drive-through mass vaccination sites.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a 72 percent overall efficacy rate with 86 percent efficacy against severe forms of COVID-19 in the United States. In South Africa, the numbers were slightly lower, with 64 percent overall efficacy and 82 percent efficacy against severe disease due to the highly contagious coronavirus variant that has been rampant in Africa since the fall.
Merck & Co, another powerful pharmaceutical company, agreed to help produce the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as part of a deal brokered by the White House. The goal of this agreement is to produce doses faster to increase the supply of the vaccine and quicken the pace of vaccination across the United States. This will also help to combat the emergence of new coronavirus variants in the United States.
As a result of this new Johnson & Johnson vaccine approval and production agreement with Merck, President Biden announced that by the end of May there will be enough doses of the coronavirus vaccine for the entire adult population of the United States.