WASHINGTON – Vaccine distribution centers will start receiving 3.9 million doses of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as early as Tuesday, White House officials announced Sunday.
A total 20 million doses will be sent throughout March, concentrated more toward the latter half of the month, officials said.
Most communities will have all three types of the coronavirus vaccine, but not at every vaccination site.
White House officials, who briefed reporters on the condition that they not be identified by name, urged the public to get whichever vaccine is first available.
All three are safe and effective at preventing what is feared most – severe illness, hospitalization and death, said a senior administration official.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has the advantage of needing only one dose compared to the two doses for Moderrna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech’s. It also doesn’t need to be kept in a freezer, making it easier to transport and store.
But the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines appear to be more effective than Johnson & Johnson’s, showing better than 94% effectiveness in large trials they ran last year.
The vaccines can’t be compared directly, however, because the trials were conducted at different times. Johnson & Johnson’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.
It was nearly 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
Because of the difference in effectiveness in contracting the virus, administration officials said they are directing jurisdictions to distribute them equitably – and will be watching to make sure that happens.
The new doses are being distributed to states proportionally to their population, just as the other vaccines have been.
Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement that the newest vaccine comes at a potentially pivotal time. Recent declines in COVID-19 cases may be stalling as infections are still high.
“Having different types of vaccines available for use, especially ones with different dosing recommendations and storage and handling requirements, can offer more options and flexibility for the public, jurisdictions and vaccine providers,” Walensky said. “Getting vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you will help protect all of us from COVID-19.”
Source: USA Today – Breaking News