Will approval of the single-dose Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine really be a game changer?

A lot of hope is being placed on the New Brunswick based pharma giant and it's vaccine candidate. Johnson & Johnson formally applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization of their vaccine. If the review process follows the same pattern as authorization of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, shipment of the drug could begin by the end of the month. As many as 100 million doses could be available by the end of June.

That would certainly aid in the war against COVID, and depending on how much of the vaccine is shipped to New Jersey, get our state closer to a return to normal by summer.

New Jersey has a goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population. That amounts to 4.7 million people. As of Thursday, New Jersey had administered 161,276 second and final doses of the currently available vaccine. That is less than 3.5% of the goal.

The biggest advantages of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that is requires only one dose and it does not need the super-cold storage of the other vaccines. That makes it easier to ship and it could be stored virtually anywhere, including local doctors offices and health clinics.

The biggest disadvantage is effectiveness. The vaccine is still highly effective in preventing serious infections but not as effective as the Moderna or Pfizer drugs. White House Health Chief Health Advisor Anthony Fauci downplayed the differences in efficacy at a briefing earlier this week.

There has been a renewed sense of urgency to get millions of Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible as new mutations of the original COVID-19 virus continue to develop. Strains from the U.K., Brazil and South Africa have shown resistance to current vaccines. Robust vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent mutations. If the virus cannot infect large numbers of people, it will not be able to reproduce as much and develop resistant mutations.

How much of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available is still not clear. As many as 100 million doses are expected by the end of June. How much of that will be shipped to New Jersey is also unclear. Gov. Phil Murphy says the state is vaccinating as many as 25,000 people per day, and has the capacity to double that once enough vaccine is available. Capacity will be further increased once retail pharmacy chains begin vaccinating people. CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid will be receiving vaccine direct from the federal government and expect to begin scheduling appointments as early next week.

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