Coronavirus News

Johnson & Johnson seeks approval for single-dose coronavirus vaccine

Johnson & Johnson vaccine Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

A new COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson could be making its way to the U.S. market as early as March 2021.  

The company officially requested Food and Drug Administration emergency authorization last Thursday and scheduled a public meeting on Feb. 26 for expert review, according to NPR.  If approved, the J&J vaccine will become the world’s first single-dose vaccine to enter the market. 

Phase 3 international trials indicate the vaccine is 72 percent effective in the U.S. and 66 percent effective globally at protecting against moderate to severe cases of COVID-19.  The prevention against severe disease and hospitalizations is reported to be 85 percent effective.

Janssen, a biotechnology division of J&J, works to combat COVID-19 by use of a delivery agent called an adenovirus.  Naturally occurring adenoviruses are known to cause mild illnesses such as the common cold, but Janssen vectors are genetically modified to prevent replication and harm to the body.

Adenovirus vectors work by storing small pieces of the antigen’s genetic code and delivering them into the body. These small components of the disease agent harmlessly mimic COVID-19 and cause a humoral and cellular response. 

This vaccine differs from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as the others utilize mRNA to induce a release of antibodies.

Once the body has produced sufficient cells to fight off the perceived illness, it is properly equipped with all of the antibodies necessary to fight off COVID-19 in the future.

The Janssen vaccine differs from Pfizer and Moderna in that it can survive at much higher temperatures. 

According to Mathai Mammen, global head of Janssen research and development, the vaccine can remain stable for two years at 4 degrees below zero and at least three months at 35-46 degrees, about the same temperature as a home refrigerator.

“It is way less complicated to store it, deliver it and take it out for the community to be vaccinated,” said UH College of Medicine dean Dr. Stephen Spann. “We have more demand for vaccines than we have supply, so having an additional vaccine out there, of any type, is a good thing.”

With the lower efficacy rate comparing to Pfizer and Moderna, there are valid concerns, but this may not be an equal comparison due to the recent discovery of new COVID-19 strands in Africa, Spann said. 

“The J&J vaccine trials were not just done in the U.S. and Europe, they were done around the world.  Some of the differences may be due to the fact that the strains in Latin America and Africa are more resistant,” Spann said. 

Regardless of manufacturer, Spann urges all UH students to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“It’s gonna be awhile before healthy young people get vaccinated, but don’t get discouraged because you have to wait,” Spann said. “I hope students will think seriously about getting the vaccine because it helps not just individuals, but it helps our entire population by increasing herd immunity and ultimately helping us get rid of the pandemic.”

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