The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two. Health experts are anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations, as they race against a virus that already has killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly.
The vaccine is set to be a cost-effective alternative to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and can be stored in a refrigerator instead of a freezer. Trials found it prevented serious illness but was 66% effective overall when moderate cases were included. The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading. J&J initially is providing a few million doses and shipments to states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer. j&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. The company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year.
President Joe Biden hailed it as “exciting news for all Americans, and an encouraging development”, but warned that the “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,” he said in a statement. “As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse.”