MILWAUKEE — On Saturday the FDA gave emergency use authorization to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. This is the third vaccine to get the approval, including Pfizer and Moderna.
Doctors from UW Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin said the biggest problem right now in trying to get people vaccinated is that the supply just isn't there. The approval a third COVID-19 should help get more shots into more arms quicker.
There are also some differences about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that health experts said will make it easier to distribute to patients. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two vaccinations, Johnson & Johnson requires just one shot.
"One vaccine equals one vaccination now. So, in terms of being able to mass vaccinate, being able to do this as quickly as possible, this is a game changer," said Principal Investigator for UW Health's Astrazeneca Vaccine Trial Dr. William Hartman.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can also be stored in a regular refrigerator, instead of extreme temperatures. Dr. Ben Weston, an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said that "makes it much more feasible to have it at community sites, to have it at mobile sites, things like that." And hopefully a broader availability means it will get to communities that have had a harder time accessing the COVID-19 vaccines so far.
As new strains of COVID-19 have emerged, questions have been raised about vaccine efficacy. Dr. Weston said the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine has been tested against some of those new strains.
"We saw overall against severe disease, it was sort of in the mid-80 percent for the protectiveness… nobody who got this vaccine, tens of thousands of people, not a single one got hospitalized with COVID, not a single one died of COVID," Dr. Weston said.
And there's some more promising news coming out of UW Health's trial of the Astrazeneca Vaccine. Dr. Hartman said he's hoping to seeing the Astrazeneca vaccine get FDA approval in the coming weeks. Right now, they are finalizing data from the U.S. study.
"That data from the U.S. trial is important because we need to get that put together in a report that will get submitted to the FDA as they're considering it for a [Emergency use authorization], probably by the early part of April."
For now, both doctors urge people to get a COVID-19 vaccine and to get whichever vaccine is available when eligible.
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