The Phase 3 trials of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine that enrolled about 45,000 people from eight countries has just wrapped up.
According to scientists for the Food and Drug Administration, early data is showing it to be safe and effective, making it one step closer to authorization. Expectations are that the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will vote to recommend authorization of the vaccine.
This information is like a shot in the arm for more optimistic vaccine news of successfully accelerating our ability of reaching herd immunity against Covid-19.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely be the third vaccine to join both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines introduced earlier this year.
Right now, Johnson & Johnson is stating that 20 million doses of their vaccine may be available by the end of March and 100 million doses by the end of June, however, this depends on several factors determining production rate.
Perks of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine:
This latest vaccine reportedly has a high level of protection, which requires only a one-shot dose, compared to both Pfizer and Moderna’s two-dose regimen. If true, this alone could be a game changer appealing to people who have difficulty taking time off from work in addition to offering faster protection than the other two vaccines requiring two shots three and four weeks apart.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine so far has milder side effects (injection site pain, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches) and is cheaper and easier to produce.
The overall efficacy rate of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66% in preventing moderate to severe cases of the disease caused by the virus 28 days after a person is vaccinated according to the study.
But that number jumps to 72% in the U.S. specifically and to 85% in preventing severe disease related to hospitalization and death. Protection from infection of Covid-19 begins as early as 14 days after the shot with full protection measured 28 days after inoculation.
Even better, this vaccine is linked to a 74% lower likelihood of asymptomatic transmission to others at 71 days when compared to a placebo during the trial.
A notable advantage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is refrigeration storage for up to three months. This significantly creates easier handling, access and administration, especially in rural areas without adequate freezer equipment required for storing the other vaccines at ultra-cold temperatures. This should allow more healthcare providers such as family doctor clinics to vaccinate patients reducing long sign-up lists at health departments or other venues administering the vaccines.
Participants in the trial, including those with underlying health conditions and over the age of 65 did extremely well when given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Notably, the vaccine also showed efficacy against the new variants of Covid-19, such as the South African variant, that has been found in certain areas of the U.S.
How long is immunity?
Length of protection from the virus at this time is not certain. Just like both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, scientists are working to determine if immunity is long-lasting or if it may require an annual shot, like the flu vaccine.
Some of this information will depend on if more variants of Covid-19 emerge over time making it more likely a yearly shot will be needed.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine works differently than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines:
The technological differences in how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine works is what separates it from both Pfizer and Moderna. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use similar single-stranded mRNA technology, relying on genetic code to trigger an immune response.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine however, uses adenovirus technology using double-stranded DNA to promote an immune response in the body. The vaccine contains a modified and altered adenovirus called Adenovirus 26 which allows it to enter cells but not reproduce in them. Non-modified adenoviruses are viruses that can cause the common cold.
The trick the modified adenovirus needs to perform is to mimic the coronavirus’s spike protein to produce an immune response. This happens by the modified adenovirus carrying a piece of the spike protein that grabs onto the surface of cells, causing the cells to pull the spike protein inside. Once inside a cell, the modified adenovirus makes its way to the cell’s DNA inside the nucleus. This is when the adenovirus switches the cell’s current DNA to the adenovirus DNA, the cell reads the spike protein gene which is then copied into messenger RNA (mRNA).
Will the public be able to choose which vaccine they want?
For now, the choice of choosing which vaccine to get is determined by the availability in a specific area of the country. As time goes on, this ability to choose which one you want may happen but until then, it’s best to be vaccinated with whichever vaccine is available.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has shown very strong results in early clinical trials, potentially providing a significant boost to U.S. vaccination efforts. As long as we keep making the effort to encourage people to take the vaccine, the quicker we can return to normalcy and move on to living our lives with minimal threat of Covid-19.
Dr. David Samadi is one of America’s leading prostate surgeons, a New York City based board-certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon, and the Director of Men's Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. Dr. Samadi is also the author of the men’s health and wellness book, “The Ultimate MANual,” Read Dr. David Samadi's Reports – More Here.
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