Last week, Johnson & Johnson announced that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine “met primary endpoints in interim analysis of its phase 3 ENSEMBLE trial.” This means that the vaccine, which the pharmaceutical giant had been developing since early last year, is likely headed for emergency use authorization sometime this month.
If approved, the J&J vaccine will become the third in use in the United States, along with those developed by Pfizer and Moderna. The company announced an effectiveness percent rate lower than those of the other two vaccines, both of which were in the 90s, but experts say that the vaccine will still make a huge difference in defeating the pandemic.
That’s because the J&J vaccine is probably less expensive to produce and doesn’t require deep freeze storage the way Pfizer’s does. It also only requires a single shot, as opposed to two, which makes distribution much easier. Once the vaccine is available and distributed, it has the potential to vastly improve vaccination rates, which have remained sluggish.
The vaccine, Johnson & Johnson said, was “72 effective in the U.S. and 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, 28 days after vaccination,” based on the single shot. However, that overall number went up to 85 percent overall, when it came to “preventing severe disease,” and it “demonstrated complete protection against COVID-19 related hospitalization and death as of Day 28.”
The phase three trial included 43,783 participants, the company said.
According to Nature, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine works differently than those of the earlier vaccines.
“The vaccine works in a similar way to the one produced by AstraZeneca of Cambridge, UK, and the University of Oxford, UK—it uses a harmless virus to shuttle the genetic code for a coronavirus protein called spike into human cells.”
“These topline results with a single-shot COVID-19 vaccine candidate represent a promising moment. The potential to significantly reduce the burden of severe disease, by providing an effective and well-tolerated vaccine with just one immunization, is a critical component of the global public health response,” Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson, said in the release.
“A one-shot vaccine is considered by the World Health Organization to be the best option in pandemic settings, enhancing access, distribution and compliance. Eighty-five percent efficacy in preventing severe COVID-19 disease and prevention of COVID-19-related medical interventions will potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from serious and fatal outcomes of COVID-19. It also offers the hope of helping ease the huge burden placed on healthcare systems and communities.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.