Single-dose vaccination could be approved for emergency use next week
The single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could gain emergency use authorization as soon as Monday.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that the vaccine meets the requirements for EUA, with 66.9% effectiveness against COVID-19 after two weeks and 66.1% effectiveness after four weeks, according to national media reports.
An independent group of FDA advisers will meet Friday to consider the documents and recommend EUA or not. Then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee will chime in as well, likely on Sunday.
“I cannot wait for the EUA because it will be a very valuable tool in fighting the pandemic,” Dr. Henning Ansorg, the Santa Barbara County public health officer, told the News-Press Wednesday. “In particular, the hard-to-contact populations (homeless, migrants, mentally ill, etc.) would be much better served with a one-shot-only vaccine, which the J&J is. Also, it does not require freezing for storage, which makes it a preferred candidate for outreach activities in the field as well.”
J&J stated it can provide 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million doses by the end of June.
Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, infectious disease specialist at Cottage Health, told the News-Press Wednesday that this is a “really exciting development.”
“The Pfizer and Moderna options that are currently available are, of course, less forgiving when we think about storage and administration logistics,” she said. “The J&J vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures for up to three months, which really expands the opportunity to potentially vaccinate outside of vaccine clinics that are affiliated with big systems and just increases the likelihood for primary care providers and other smaller health care settings to far more easily give people a COVID vaccine in the same way they deliver the influenza vaccine.”
Dr. Fitzgibbons added that a question she knows will come up when people hear about the J&J vaccine is: “Which vaccine should I get?”
The specialist said her answer hasn’t changed.
“It’s a simple answer. I really encourage people to get the first vaccine they have access to,” she said. “The J&J data looks very, very good, and the Pfizer and Moderna data also has been very, very good.
“Just as soon as people are able to get the protection that they’re eligible for, I strongly recommend people take advantage of that.”
Dr. Fitzgibbons said everyone getting their first dose (or in J&J’s case, the single dose) as quickly as possible is the highest priority.
On top of the J&J vaccine news, The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the results of Israel’s real-world, mass vaccination campaign surveying more than half a million people showed that the Pfizer vaccine was 92% effective at preventing severe disease after two shots and 62% after one. Its estimated effectiveness for preventing death was 72% two to three weeks after the first shot as well, with room for improvement as immunity builds over time.
In other good news, Dr. Fitzgibbons said Cottage Health is likely days away from vaccinating the first round of essential workers, but added that the public needs to keep in mind that health care systems are dealing with tens of thousands of suddenly eligible people. She explained that even though essential workers are now eligible for vaccinations, it may take a while for them to actually receive their first doses.
This group of essential workers includes residents in the following sectors: education and childcare, emergency services, food and grocery, and agriculture.
“I think the exciting news is that the process is starting and everyone from vaccine organizers to the health department see it as a top priority right now,” she said.
As of Feb. 19 — the last time Cottage Health updated its vaccine numbers — 11,905 doses had been given to community members 75 and older, and 7,735 doses were given to healthcare workers. In addition, 1,100 first-dose and 2,420 second-dose appointments will be administered at the next vaccine clinic, planned for today and Friday.
According to public information officer Jackeline Ruiz, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department vaccine sites have not had availability for ages 65 to 74 just yet, especially given the previous week’s weather delays.
However, she said information about progress in vaccinating the 65-to-74 population should be more available in the coming week.