Lowcountry doctors discuss Johnson & Johnson vaccine, pending Emergency Use Authorization

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is one step closer to a full Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after receiving endorsement from U.S. advisers.

Lowcountry doctors are among those in the nation that are hoping Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine gets the full ‘green light’ soon, as plans for distribution are already in the works.  

Dr. Robert Oliverio, the Chief Medical Officer of Ambulatory Care and Population Health for Roper St. Francis, said this vaccine is a “game-changer”. With only one dose needed and less refrigeration, the vaccine can make it farther than others. This allows better access for those in either rural areas or that are homebound.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said they too are waiting on the approval of the FDA to place their order. As of Friday afternoon, Nick Davidson, Senior Deputy for Public Health, said they are under the understanding that their first-week delivery will be around 40,000 doses. This number comes from the approximate 20 million doses pre-ordered by the United States in anticipation of approval.  

With the doses ready to be ordered upon EUA approval, distribution plans are loosely in the works. 

Davidson said that due to a limited quantity of vaccines, their quantity of supply will be limited.  While unable to be everywhere right away, DHEC’s plan is to try to spread it in a diffused manner with the hope of it eventually being an option for all individuals.

The vaccine itself, while not an mRNA vaccine like that of Pfizer and Moderna, is more comparable to a seasonal flu shot. However, the deactivated cold virus inside the vaccine has a genetic input of the “spike” protein in which is used by the coronavirus to infect the cell.

Dr. Oliverio said that based on the worldwide population, where variants are probably higher, the vaccine was about 66% effective. In the United States where new variants are at a lower rate than in South Africa, efficacy is higher at 72% against moderate to severe disease. Against severe disease, Dr. Oliverio detailed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85% effective. 

Despite these efficacy rates, Dr. Oliverio said there’s only one percentage value to remember and that is that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, similar to the Pfizer, and Moderna vaccines are each 100% effective against hospitalization and death.

If and when the COVID-19 Vaccine from Johnson & Johnson gets the green light from the FDA—we’ll be sure to update you both on-air and online.

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