The Food and Drug Administration has finally approved Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, making it the third available vaccine approved to fight against the pandemic.
According to CNBC News, the FDA’s authorization came on Friday and will kickstart the federal government’s plan to send out nearly 4 million of its vaccine doses across the nation to pharmacies and community health centers next week.
The company’s vaccine is different from the other two approved companies, Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccines require two doses, and the vaccines can be stored for a longer period of time in refrigerator temperatures.
J&J’s vaccine “makes it operationally easier in lots of contexts,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told the Journal of the American Medical Association during an informative briefing on Friday. “I expect lots of considerations state health departments are having around these vaccines is more about the ease of use of the J&J vaccine and how it might be better suited for some populations.”
The company says first-round doses will be limited, but it expects to distribute 20 million doses by the end of next month, a plan confirmed by its VP of U.S. medical affairs, Dr. Richard Nettles.
The company made a deal with the U.S. government to supply 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of June. U.S. officials are working with J&J to increase its supply as quickly as possible, CNBC reported.
Officials are concerned about new emerging variants of the virus, focusing on the B.1.351 strain, which has been shown to reduce vaccines’ effectiveness.
The company submitted its Covid vaccine data to the FDA earlier this month. Apparently, the vaccine’s level of protection varies by region, with the shot demonstrating 66% effectiveness overall. It proved 72% in the U.S., 66% in Latin America, and 57% in South Africa, where the B.1.351 variant is surging. However, FDA documents report the vaccine was 64% effective in South Africa after about a month.