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Arab Americans fear an invisible COVID-19 crisis
J&J begins sending out millions of its one-dose vaccines
Johnson & Johnson began distributing its vaccine Sunday, adding a third vaccine to fight COVID-19 to the country’s arsenal.
The company said it expects to deliver enough single-shot vaccines by the end of March to enable the full vaccination of more than 20 million people in the U.S. A total of 100 million doses will be delivered nationwide during the first half of 2021, it said.
Earlier Sunday, an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted unanimously to recommend the vaccine.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices held an emergency meeting to hear evidence on the effectiveness and possible side effects of the vaccine. The vote was 12-0 with one recusal.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the recommendation soon afterward.
“This official CDC recommendation – which follows Saturday’s FDA decision to authorize emergency use of the vaccine – is another milestone toward an end to the pandemic,” she said in a release.
The Johnson & Johnson shot was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday for people 18 and older. It requires only one dose and does not have to be frozen.
The J&J vaccine joins two others, one from Pfizer-BioNTech and one from Moderna, which have been given to nearly 50 million Americans since they were authorized in December.
An FDA advisory panel voted Friday to support J&J’s vaccine, finding its benefits far outweighed its risks.
The FDA’s commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, agreed.
“The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States,” she said in a statement. “The FDA, through our open and transparent scientific review process, has now authorized three COVID-19 vaccines with the urgency called for during this pandemic.”
President Joe Biden in a statement said Saturday’s authorization means “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel” but again stressed the importance of mitigation measures like hand washing and social distancing.
“We know that the more people get vaccinated, the faster we will overcome the virus, get back to our friends and loved ones, and get our economy back on track,” he said.
He added: “This fight is far from over. Though we celebrate today’s news, I urge all Americans – keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing masks. As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse.”
Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the CDC, applauded the FDA’s decision.
“With three COVID-19 vaccines now available, the number of cases and deaths around the country continuing to fall, and Congress taking steps toward approving additional critically needed economic relief, I have never been more encouraged that we might be finally turning the corner on this pandemic,” he said in a statement.
Besser also said increases in vaccine supply “are welcome but insufficient on their own to end” the racial disparities in vaccine distribution: “People of color in the United States have suffered a cruel dichotomy: among the highest rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and among the lowest rates of vaccination.”
The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines appear to be more effective than J&J’s, showing better than 94% effectiveness in large trials they ran last year. Although the vaccines can’t be compared directly, because the trials were conducted at different times, J&J’s vaccine appeared to be 72% effective among U.S. trial participants. It was less effective in South Africa and Latin America, where newer strains of the virus are circulating.
The one-shot J&J vaccine also should be easier to distribute to rural areas and other places without pharmaceutical-grade freezers.
And it may cause fewer side effects than the other two vaccines, with only about 50% of trial participants reporting injection-site pain compared to nearly 80% for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, particularly with second shots.
The company will offer trial participants who received the placebo an active vaccine and will continue to follow them for two years. The government has several safety monitoring systems to keep track of any health problems connected to the shots.
Health coverage is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The foundation provides no editorial input.