Johnson & Johnson’s long-awaited vaccine appears to protect against COVID-19 with just one shot. However, it is not as strong as some two-shot rivals but still potentially helpful for a world in need of more doses.
J&J said Friday that in the U.S. and seven other countries, the single-shot vaccine was 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe illness, and much more protective. It tested at 85% against the most serious symptoms. Numbers that still seem low enough to not make Americans immediately approve.
Some of the facts involved with testing remain alarming. For example, there was some geographic variation. The vaccine worked better in the U.S. at 72% effective against moderate to severe COVID-19 – compared to 57% in South Africa, where it was up against an easier-to-spread “mutated virus.”
“Gambling on one dose was certainly worthwhile,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, global research chief for J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceutical unit, told The Associated Press. With almost every vaccination off to a rocky start globally, experts had been counting on a one-dose vaccine that would stretch scarce supplies and avoid the logistics nightmare of getting people to return for boosters.
And even with some other competing vaccines shown to be 95% effective after two doses, at question is whether somewhat less protection is an acceptable tradeoff to get more shots in arms quickly.
“Frankly, simple is beautiful,” said Dr. Matt Hepburn of Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s vaccine initiative. But what does beautiful mean when speaking on preventing more than the nearly 500,000 deaths we are witnessing? At some point, the people need facts. The numbers are one thing. But after a year of facing this deadly virus, people are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel.