Expert Says Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine “Is Going to Be Huge”

February 25, 2021
Aislinn Antrim, Associate Editor

In a CDC press briefing, experts said the vaccine’s single-dose approach will enable more mobile units and pop-up events to vaccinate hard-to-reach populations.

If given an FDA emergency use authorization, the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine candidate could be a game-changer, according to experts in a CDC press briefing on Wednesday.

“The addition of a new vaccine is another tool in our toolbelt that will help us vaccinate more equitably and with greater velocity,” said Nirav Shah, MD, JD, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, during the press briefing.

Jay Butler, MD, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC, and Virginia Caine, MD, director of the Marion County Public Health Department in Indiana, both agreed that the third vaccine would be an important step.

All 3 experts participated in the CDC’s virtual National Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine, during which more than 13,000 participants shared expertise and lessons on administering COVID-19 vaccines quickly, safely, and equitably. Butler said that although news around the pandemic has been largely positive in recent weeks, health experts cannot lose focus.

“We have the capacity, the mission, [and] the responsibility to deliver as many vaccines as we can to as many people as we can, and to do it safely and fairly,” Butler said.

Shah concurred and said the community approach to COVID-19 vaccination was a major theme of the forum. He had several takeaways and emphasized that there is no need to choose between vaccinating quickly and vaccinating equitably. Both are equally important and require constant focus, Shah said.

He added that it is essential to use data-informed approaches, which require data collection and analysis as well as thoughtful policy making. Shah also emphasized urgency and said pharmacists and other health care experts have a vital role in increasing confidence in both the vaccine and the vaccination process.

“Right now across the country, and certainly in my state, we are facing vaccine urgency,” Shah said. “But very soon, that urgency may give way to hesitancy. Right now is the time to start laying the foundation to instill confidence.”

The panelists also discussed what the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean for this urgency. Caine said the additional supply will be essential, and the single-dose approach will make it easier to set up mobile units and pop-up events to vaccinate hard-to-reach populations.

Finally, Caine said that although the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may have lower overall efficacy compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it should not be compared to the other options. All vaccinations are essential right now, Caine said, adding that it is important to note the lower hospitalization rates and protection against severe illness that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides.

“Right now, it’s not vaccine against vaccine,” Shah concluded. “It’s vaccines against virus.”

REFERENCE

Butler J, Shah N, Caine V. CDC Media Telebriefing: National Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine. February 24, 2021.