Expert: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine ‘May Be a Vaccine That Many Americans Have Access to Very Easily, Very Close to Their Home’

March 2, 2021

Amesh Adalja, MD, FIDSA, FACP, FACEP, discussed the distribution prospects for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in light of it being possible to store it at standard refrigeration temperatures for up to 3 months.

Pharmacy Times® interviewed Amesh Adalja, MD, FIDSA, FACP, FACEP, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, on how the issuance of the proposed emergency use authorization (EUA) for Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine may impact the current COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration process in the country.

Alana Hippensteele: Hi, I'm Alana Hippensteele from Pharmacy Times. Today, I’m speaking with Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, on the implications of the recently released results of a new analysis by the FDA that show that the COVID-19 single-shot vaccine candidate by Johnson & Johnson provides strong protection against severe disease and may reduce the spread of the virus. With these results, the FDA could issue the EUA for this third COVID-19 vaccine candidate quite soon.

Following the announcement from Pfizer and BioNTech updating the cold storage requirements for their COVID-19 vaccine to the more standard temperatures of -13 degrees to 5 degrees Fahrenheit and the standard refrigeration temperatures of this Johnson & Johnson vaccine, how might this affect distribution prospects for these vaccines?

Amesh Adalja: It makes it much easier if you don't have a very onerous cold chain. If you can get this vaccine closer to the people that need it, that you don't have to have deep freeze storage places, that you don't have to worry about the cold chain being broken and vaccine vials becoming non-viable.

So, I do think it greatly expands the reach of the Pfizer vaccine, and I think it will make it easier to conduct vaccination programs without having to worry about whether or not the temperature wasn't maintained in the adequate range. So, this is also good news for the Pfizer vaccine.

Alana Hippensteele: Right. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored at standard refrigeration temperatures for up to 3 months, which is much longer than the current 2 weeks at the recently updated temperatures required for the Pfizer vaccine. What might this mean in terms of where each vaccine may be sent to be administered, such as rural areas versus urban areas?

Amesh Adalja: The easier it is to store a vaccine, the more versatile it can be. So, with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine having an even less stringent cold chain, you can really get that into pharmacies, you can even do door-to-door vaccination with something like this with mobile vaccination units. You could do a lot more with a vaccine where you don't have to worry about storage.

So I do think that you may see the vaccines kind of targeted towards places where there is cold storage availability, where there isn't cold storage ability, and I think the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be a vaccine that many Americans have access to very easily, very close to their home without having to go to a mass vaccination site, without having to go to a hospital, and I think that's good because we want this vaccination to be as seamless and easy as possible, just like getting a flu vaccine, and I think the Johnson & Johnson vaccine takes us significantly down that road.

Alana Hippensteele: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Dr. Adalja.

Amesh Adalja: Thank you for having me.