The Food and Drug Administration voted this weekend to give emergency use approval for the one-shot COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson.
ROI-NJ talked with leading officials at Atlantic Health, Hackensack Meridian Health, Holy Name Medical Center, the Rutgers Global Health Institute and RWJBarnabas Health for their thoughts on the J&J vaccine and its impact on New Jersey. (We also got information from Gov. Phil Murphy during his media briefings.)
Here’s what the experts say approval of New Brunswick-based J&J’s vaccine means for New Jersey, presented in a merged Q&A fashion.
Read more from ROI-NJ:
- FDA approves J&J vaccine — 70,000 doses headed to N.J. in coming days
- Why one-shot J&J vaccine may greatly increase people willing to get vaccinated
- Medical experts: J&J vaccine is just as effective as vaccines by Pfizer, Moderna
- When it comes to vaccine efficacy, here’s why 94% isn’t much different than 72%
Q: How many doses will New Jersey get of the vaccine?
A: Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday the state expects 70,000 doses in the coming days — almost certainly meaning 70,000 additional New Jerseyans will get vaccinated this week.
J&J has said it would aim to deliver about 20 million doses for U.S. use by the end of March, which may be enough to boost the countrywide capacity for completed vaccinations by about 20%.
Q: Will New Jersey be able to get more of the vaccine since J&J is based in New Brunswick?
A: The simple answer is ‘No.’ All vaccine doses are being distributed by the federal government — based mainly on population.
California, for instance, is getting 380,000 doses in the coming weeks and is expected to get 1.1 million doses by the end of March.
Q: New Jersey has a lot of vaccination centers — which ones will get the J&J doses?
A: Health systems officials do not think the J&J doses will be distributed evenly — and that’s a good thing. Those who have greater ability to cold-store the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines may get more of those doses, while others get more of the easier-to-store J&J vaccine.
The broader answer: Every distributed center will get more doses of a vaccine. Which one is not important.
Q: Will the J&J vaccine only be at distribution centers, whether they be run by the state, counties or retail outlets, such as pharmacies?
A: Again, the simple answer is, ‘No’ — and that’s another good thing. Health system officials said, because of the ease of use, distribution entities with mobile capabilities — the ones who can bring the vaccine to people who have difficulty getting to distribution sites — figure to be prioritized.
Q: Because it’s a one-shot vaccine, that means we will be able to double the rate at which the population is vaccinated, yes?
A: Yes. But, it means more than that. Health system officials said the one-shot vaccine will broaden the pool of the population that will be able to get the population. Some are so afraid of needles that they would not submit to the idea of getting two shots. Some (mainly undocumented residents) fear they will be deported if they show up for a shot. This should help both populations.
Q: Finally, the efficacy rate of the J&J vaccine is much lower than that of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s. Are residents better off with Pfizer and Moderna rather than J&J?
A: No. Not at all. And this is a huge point of contention. In simple terms, the quoted efficacy rate usually relates to getting any form of COVID-19. When it comes to getting a severe case — one that will cause hospitalization — all three vaccines are the same.
And, the sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner the chances of anyone getting any level of the virus goes down dramatically.
Remember, the efficacy rate of the flu vaccine many people get is usually around 50%. But getting the flu vaccine generally eliminates the chance of getting a severe case. That should be the goal here, too.