5 Things to Know About the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

FDA data on the one-shot vaccine shows that it’s safe and effective

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration released an analysis showing that the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is safe and effective. The vaccine is poised to become the third vaccine to receive emergency use approval in the United States, pending the recommendation of a panel of FDA advisers. They’re scheduled to make their decision on Friday.

The Coronavirus Blog team will be covering the results of the decision over the next few days, but in the meantime, here are five things to know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

  • It’s effective. According to the FDA analysis, the vaccine had a 72% efficacy rate in the United States. The vaccine was also tested in Latin America as well as in South Africa, where the more transmissible B.1.351 variant emerged and is spreading quickly. There, the vaccine was 64% effective overall. While the data shows it has lower efficacy than the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, keep in mind that these companies tested their vaccines at different times and in different regions. Johnson & Johnson’s clinical trials took place in areas where more contagious variants were circulating.
  • It protects against severe cases. The analysis shows the vaccine is 86% effective against severe Covid-19 in the United States and 82% in South Africa.
  • It requires only one shot and regular refrigeration. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is highly anticipated because it requires only one dose, in contrast to the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer. It also does not require special refrigeration, whereas Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored in ultra-cold conditions and Moderna’s vaccine must be kept frozen.
  • At first, doses will be limited. When Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is approved in early March, only a few million doses will be available for distribution, according to the New York Times. Johnson & Johnson has struggled to ramp up production, but it has committed to delivering 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million doses by the end of June.
  • Experts say you should get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if it’s available. It’s a better idea to get vaccinated with a lower-efficacy vaccine than wait for a higher-efficacy one because waiting makes it more difficult to control the virus, experts told the Coronavirus Blog. As Alexandra Sifferlin noted previously, “Experts have been saying for a long time now that there are clear benefits to having the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as part of the arsenal, even if its effectiveness is not technically as high.”



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Yasmin Tayag

Yasmin Tayag

Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog. Senior editor at Future Human by OneZero. Previously: science at Inverse, genetics at NYU.