With Mona Chitre, PharmD, Chief Pharmacy Officer at Univera Healthcare
Mona, the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine is the third COVID-19 vaccine being distributed in the U.S. Is it safe? Why do we need a third vaccine option?
All vaccines have the same goal — to protect us. The J&J vaccine was tested thousands of times to ensure its safety, and is authorized for use in the U.S. The J&J vaccine offers another option for increasing protection against the virus.
How does the J&J vaccine differ from the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines?
The J&J vaccine uses different technology than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but none of the vaccines contain a live virus, so cannot cause you to become sick from COVID-19. Advantages of the J&J vaccine are its ability to be stored for up to three months at regular refrigerator temperatures, and that it only requires one dose. Immunity builds over a few weeks after immunization with all of the vaccines. J&J data shows most vaccinated trial participants had a robust immune response 15 days after getting the shot, with significant protection by day 29.
Should we be concerned with a less effective rate?
You can’t compare the three vaccines to each other. Testing for the J&J vaccine occurred in different regions, at different points in time, and with varying COVID-19 occurrences. Overall, the J&J vaccine is 85 percent effective against severe COVID-19 cases, and 100 percent effective at preventing death from COVID-19, making it a very safe and effective option. Just know that all of the vaccines are safe and effective.
There is mention of a booster vaccine to help protect against the COVID-19 variants. What information is known or suggested about this?
The issue of variants is complicated and the science is emerging. As researchers continue to investigate these issues, they recommend that people take whichever vaccine is available to them when it is their turn, saying, “Since all three vaccines are safe and effective, the best vaccine is the one you have access to.”
We know that vaccines were given to high-risk groups first. The data suggests that the number of deaths in nursing homes are going down by more than 60 percent. Do you feel this is because of the vaccine?
Absolutely. Nursing home residents were among the first people to receive the vaccine. The data shows how powerful the vaccines are against the virus, which is encouraging to hear. Reports like these make me so hopeful as the vaccines continue to rollout. I’m excited for my children to be reunited with their grandparents. I’m optimistic about the future.