MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Johnson & Johnson is the latest company expected to file for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine. If all goes as planned, the vaccine could be in Alabama in a matter of weeks.
Johnson & Johnson produced a vaccine that alleviated serious restrictions that accompany both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines. It’s a one-dose vaccine and doesn’t have the same stringent cold chain requirements.
“It has a lot of advantages,” remarked Scott Harris, Alabama’s public health officer.
Johnson & Johnson’s phase 3 trial data showed the vaccine is 72% effective in the U.S. and 68% worldwide. It’s 85% successful in preventing serious COVID-19-related illness. No one who took the vaccine and contracted COVID-19 went to the hospital or died.
Harris believes the vaccine, if approved, will widely benefit the state despite the lower efficacy. He reminded the public the flu vaccine is generally between 45 to 60% effective.
“It’s not a failure by any means,” he explained. “If we get 68% protection for a large group of people in our state, that’s a win hands down. No debate about that.”
Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines are more than 90% effective. There’s a concern the lower efficacy may cause some to vaccine shop for the more powerful doses.
“I pray people don’t do that, that’s really short sighted strategy,” Harris admitted. “We need as much protection for as many people as quickly as possible. Going through the logistics of giving people a second shot of a vaccine that’s just trickling in - that’s going to cause people to get sick and worse.”
The company’s been manufacturing doses for nine months, ahead of an emergency authorization and plans to ship doses as soon as federal regulators greenlight the vaccine.
“I’d love to say we would have it in the next month and deploy it as soon as we can,” Harris added. “We want people to understand if these vaccines are available and you can get them, that’s the brand you need to take.”
The greatest concern, the vaccine is 57% effective against the South African COVID-19 variant.