In a late-stage trial, the Johnson & Johnson one-shot COVID-19 vaccine produced strong protection against the disease. This raised hopes that the said vaccine can help a struggling campaign on immunization.
In a trial involving more than 43,000 respondents, the vaccine managed to prevent 66% of moderate to severe COVID-19 infections. Additionally, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has been shown to prevent 85% of severe infections while totally preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
Given this result, the company is now planning to file for emergency-use authorization with the FDA next week. J&J’s top scientist expects to receive the clearance in March and says shipments would be ready by then.
The drug company, however, did not indicate the number of doses that are immediately available. Although, it said the U.S. can expect 100 million doses by the end of June.
While results of the trial are promising, shares of J&J dropped by 3.7% on Friday as many investors had hoped for an efficacy rating that is higher than 80%.
If the company gets emergency-use authorization, it may greatly help in stopping the pandemic. Moderna and Pfizer have vaccines that are more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, but those require two doses for full inoculation. Additionally, J&J’s vaccine can be stored in a refrigerator for three months while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines need to be stored in a freezer.
According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday, President Joe Biden feels encouraged by the positive results from J&J’s trial. Psaki added that he believes FDA now needs to do its job and evaluate how safe and effective the vaccine is.
The Threat of New Variants
Recently, new coronavirus variants that are laden with mutations have surfaced and have started spreading. This has increased the pressure on having people receive vaccinations. J&J’s trial, however, was done in multiple places around the world, including areas where new variants have surfaced, such as South Africa and Brazil.
According to the results, these new variants are harder to fight. As per their trial results, in the U.S., where variants are not prevalent, the vaccine had an efficacy rate of 72%. However, in South Africa, where variant B.1.351 is spreading, the vaccine was 57% effective.
Despite this setback, the J&J vaccine will provide humanity with new means to fight the virus.
If approved in the country, people can receive one dose that will serve as the initial protection from severe cases. If needed, they could receive a booster shot at a later time.
The J&J vaccine provided protection consistently across race and age. It also appears to provide immunity that scales up and that can sustain itself as time passes.
Additionally, the company said a monitoring board review did not identify any significant safety concerns. It said that 9% of the respondents did develop a fever, but the trial showed no instance of severe allergic reactions.
Johnson & Johnson’s Developed Vaccine Using Adenovirus
The J&J vaccine was developed using an adenovirus as a basis. It is a cold germ that has been changed so that it can make copies of the spike protein found in the coronavirus. The altered adenovirus doesn’t have the ability to replicate when in human hosts. However, it triggers a response from a person’s immune system and prepares the body to fight the coronavirus. The drug company has used this same technology for their Ebola vaccine.
Similar to Pfizer and Moderna, J&H has already started work on creating a next-generation version of their vaccine. These potential new versions will hopefully provide immunity against new variants of the COVID-19 virus.
Johnson & Johnson’s CFO Joseph Wolk revealed the company’s goal of having seven manufacturing facilities by the end of Q2. J&J also said it is on track to producing a billion doses before 2021 ends.
J&J’s vaccine was one of the six tapped for Operation Warp Speed. It received backing amounting to around $1.5 billion from the U.S. government. According to Wolk, they do not plan on profiting from the vaccine in terms of price, so it won’t exceed $10 per shot.