Johnson & Johnson promises 100 million vaccine doses by June

Another tool in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic is on the way as Johnson & Johnson becomes the third company to gain emergency use authorization in the United States for its COVID-19 vaccine.

There are a lot of differences, but the biggest one may help speed up vaccination efforts in Wisconsin. Johnson & Johnson is a single-dose vaccine, and it doesn’t require extreme cold temperatures to remain viable. 

(Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

UW Health experts say Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is a game-changer. The company is promising 100 million doses by June.

"Keep people out of the hospital, keeping people well, hopefully reducing overall transmission," said Dr. Matt Anderson.

Dr. Anderson says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine differs in many key ways from Moderna and Pfizer.  For starters, it’s a single-dose vaccine.  It can also be stored in common refrigeration and doesn’t require extreme cold.  Perhaps the biggest difference is how the vaccine protects against the virus.

"Johnson & Johnson vaccine takes a more typical vaccine approach," said Anderson. "You get part of that genetic material from the spike protein of the coronavirus. It’s able to go in and enter our cells but it’s not able to replicate or infect."

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There’s been some concern because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also less effective than its predecessors. Pfizer and Moderna each log 95% efficacy.

"That really is about what percentage reduction or protection is there from getting any COVID-19 protection?" said Anderson. " While the J&J data shows that number is a little bit lower, even those people who still get COVID-19 are very well protected against the hospitalization and death and other severe complication risks."

Anderson says there’s encouraging news about Johnson & Johnson protection against variants of the virus.

"The J&J vaccine was tested in South Africa and we know there’s been a variant of concern and interest that’s been there," said Anderson.

Overall, he says this latest development provides hope, but it shouldn’t stop you from practicing methods that have been in place for almost a year now.

"We can’t celebrate too early – how did we get here?" said Dr. Anderson. "We got here in part through vaccination but we got here largely through masking, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings."     

Johnson & Johnson says it has already started to ship its vaccine as of early Monday morning.