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Top Five Questions About the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Answered


What the world needs now is more COVID-19 vaccines, but it’s in everyone’s best interest that vaccines are evaluated for safety and effectiveness before they are offered to the public. That’s exactly what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did when it granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. On Feb. 26, the FDA will meet again to review Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine data and determine if it should receive EUA.

How is this vaccine different than the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines?

There are a few things that make the Johnson & Johnson vaccine different than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The first difference is the way it’s made. Researchers took DNA from the coronavirus and put it in a shell called an adenovirus. The adenovirus cannot replicate in your system or make you sick. It acts as a Trojan horse by entering your system like a virus would and then prompting your body to create antibodies. Johnson & Johnson has decades of research on adenovirus vaccines. Other vaccines available that use this technology include the Ebola vaccine (also made by Johnson & Johnson), the HPV vaccine, the hepatitis B vaccine and even one of the influenza vaccines.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, only one dose is required for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be stored in freezers, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be kept in a refrigerator for at least three months.

How effective is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

Johnson & Johnson reports that its vaccine is 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, 28 days after vaccination. Even more importantly, this vaccine is 85 percent effective preventing severe disease. “Receiving this vaccine means that if you get COVID-19 your symptoms won’t be as severe,” says Alex Benjamin, MD, LVHN Chief Infection Control and Prevention Officer. “This vaccine’s effectiveness is greater than the typical flu vaccine.”

The CDC says, “recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40 percent and 60 percent among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.”

“This COVID-19 vaccine will prevent hospitalizations and provide protection against severe illness,” says Benjamin.

It also has been tested in South Africa where the primary strain of coronavirus is known as B.1.351. Johnson & Johnson found that its shot was effective against this new strain as well. If the FDA grants this vaccine EUA, people can begin receiving the shot outside of clinical trials.

How do we know that the vaccine is safe?

During FDA review for EUA, the FDA determines if there is enough information to prove that the vaccine is working and that it’s safe. In order for any drug to be approved, it must go through the same 3-4 phases of clinical trials, and a COVID-19 vaccine is no different. What is different is that the administrative aspects of the trial, production of the vaccine and distribution were expedited. Typically, the phases of a trial occur sequentially, but with COVID-19 treatments and vaccinations researchers planned the next phase of the trial before the current phase concluded.

“The science will take as much time as the science needs,” says Joseph Yozviak, DO, LVHN Principal Investigator for the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. “The only things eliminated from the trial were unnecessary delays.”

Most side effects of a vaccination are seen in the first two months after it is received, however these clinical trials will continue to monitor participants for two years.

Can I choose which vaccine I receive at LVHN?

Patients cannot choose which vaccine they will receive at this time. Due to limited supply, vaccines are given based on inventory at the time of your appointment. While you will not be able to choose which vaccine you will receive, any vaccine that has been granted EUA by the FDA has been proven to be both safe and effective.

Will LVHN receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccine supply at LVHN is determined by the state of Pennsylvania. If EUA is granted and the state of Pennsylvania delivers Johnson & Johnson vaccines as a part of its shipment to LVHN, we will administer those vaccines.

For answers to other common COVID-19 vaccine questions, visit LVHN.org/VaccineFAQs.