With Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 Vaccine efficacy data released this past week, and the announcement of their submission to the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization, many are left with questions regarding how good this vaccine truly is.
In a nutshell, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate was 72% effective in the US and 66% effective globally at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, 28 days after vaccination. It is 85% effective overall in preventing severe disease and demonstrated complete protection against COVID-19 related hospitalization and death as of day 28.
The vaccine also demonstrates protection against severe disease across geographies, ages, and multiple virus variants. These include the SARS-CoV-2 Variant from the B.1.251 lineage observed in South Africa.
These numbers may seem lower than those of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine which showed efficacy data of 95%, but experts say this vaccine will still be useful against the pandemic in the US and globally.
Dr. Fauci believes this vaccine will greatly help alleviate stress on the US health system. As we have seen during this pandemic, ICUs, Emergency Rooms, and hospitals have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.
The key result here is the 85% effectiveness overall in preventing severe disease and demonstrated complete protection against COVID-19 related hospitalization and death. By preventing severe disease, it will overall decrease hospital visits, ICU stays, and deaths. “If you can prevent severe disease in a high percentage of individuals, that will alleviate so much of the stress and human suffering and death,” said Dr. Fauci.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has multiple advantages. It is inexpensive, single-dose, and it is stable for months at refrigerator temperatures. The vaccine is also well-tolerated, it included NO cases of severe allergic responses (anaphylaxis).
“You know what the problem is? If this were out there and we didn’t have the Moderna 94-95% …. We would have said wow, a 72% effective vaccine that’s even more effective against severe disease is really terrific,” Fauci said in a telephone interview. “But now we’re always judging it against 94 to 95%. Having said that, this is a vaccine that could have used particularly in developing countries to keep people out of the hospital. It has a very good efficacy against severe disease” he added.
Additionally, Johnson & Johnson’s trials began later into the pandemic. Cases were surging even higher in many parts of the world. Additionally, new variants of coronavirus were already circulating. All of these factors can account for the differences in efficacy data between Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
Johnson & Johnson is already planning on testing a two-dose regimen of the vaccine that may increase efficacy. Dr. Fauci stated “Let’s see what that shows. It could possibly bring it up to 90%,” he said. “Heck if you got 72 with a single dose, you would think you would do pretty good with a boost.”
Johnson & Johnson announced they applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for Emergency Use Authorization at the end of last week and approval could be coming by late February.