By Carl Zimmer, Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere
The one-shot coronavirus vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson provides strong protection against severe disease and death from Covid-19, and may reduce the spread of the virus by vaccinated people, according to new analyses posted online by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday.
The vaccine had a 72 percent overall efficacy rate in the United States and 64 percent in South Africa, where a highly contagious variant emerged in the fall and is now driving most cases. The efficacy in South Africa was seven percentage points higher than earlier data released by the company.
The vaccine also showed 86 percent efficacy against severe forms of Covid-19 in the United States, and 82 percent against severe disease in South Africa. That means that a vaccinated person has a far lower risk of being hospitalized or dying from Covid-19.
The analyses confirmed that Americans are likely to benefit soon from a third effective coronavirus vaccine developed in under a year, as demand for inoculations greatly outstrips supply. The F.D.A. could authorize the vaccine as early as Saturday, depending on a vote by its vaccine advisory panel on Friday after it discusses the newly released documents.
“With a J&J vaccine, we’ll be able to accelerate the vaccine rollout for our country and for the world,” said Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston who led much of the early research on the vaccine last year.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures for at least three months, making its distribution considerably easier than the authorized vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, which require two doses and must be stored at frigid temperatures.
How the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Works
An adenovirus helps prime the immune system to fight the coronavirus.
But access to the new vaccine could be severely limited at first. Dr. Richard Nettles, the vice president of U.S. medical affairs at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the drug development arm of Johnson & Johnson, told lawmakers on Tuesday that nearly four million doses would be ready for shipment if the F.D.A. authorizes the vaccine, far below the 12 million it had originally pledged to give the federal government by the end of February.
He said that a total of 20 million doses will be ready by the end of March, 17 million fewer doses than the firm’s federal contract envisioned. But he insisted that Johnson & Johnson will fulfill its promise of 100 million doses by the end of June.
Asked about the shortfall on Wednesday, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House coordinator of the pandemic response, said the Biden administration learned that Johnson & Johnson was behind on manufacturing and needed federal help for equipment and raw materials when it took office in January.
“It was disappointing when we arrived” he said, but “I think the progress is real.” Despite the delays, he said, “obviously the prospect of a potential third approved vaccine is very encouraging” because lack of supply remains the biggest obstacle to the nation’s vaccination effort.
Mr. Zients said if the new vaccine is authorized, roughly two million of the initial four million or so doses would be added to the shipments from Moderna and Pfizer to the United States next week. The remainder would go to federal vaccination programs at pharmacies and community health centers, he said.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has a lower efficacy rate than the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, which are both around 95 percent.
Covid-19 Vaccines ›
What You Need to Know About the Vaccine Rollout
- Providers in the U.S. are administering about 1.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines per day, on average. Almost 30 million people have received at least one dose, and about 7 million have been fully vaccinated. How many people have been vaccinated in your state?
- The U.S. is far behind several other countries in getting its population vaccinated.
- In the near future, travel may require digital documentation showing that passengers have been vaccinated or tested for the coronavirus.
- When can you get the vaccine? What are the vaccine’s side effects? Is it safe to take during pregnancy? We’ve have answers to many of your questions.
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