(CNN) — Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States (CDC), said this Sunday that she had signed the recommendation of an advisory committee to use the single-dose COVID-19 vaccine of Johnson & Johnson.
That’s the last hurdle the vaccine, made by J & J’s Janssen vaccine arm, must overcome before it can be distributed in the U.S. and given to people.
The vaccine becomes the third available in the United States.
“This official CDC recommendation, which follows Saturday’s FDA decision to authorize emergency use of the vaccine, is another milestone toward ending the pandemic,” Walensky said in a statement.
“As vaccination increases, so does our nation’s overall protection against severe outcomes due to COVID-19. The Janssen vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19 disease, hospitalization and death, ”added Walensky.
The US Food and Drug Administration authorized the J&J vaccine on Saturday.
Earlier Sunday, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The advisory committee is a group of vaccine and public health experts that helps establish guidelines for CDC regarding best vaccine practices. Members voted unanimously, with a challenge due to a potential conflict of interest, to recommend the vaccine. They did not make any recommendations about specific groups that should receive the vaccine.
The committee voted on the following question: Is the Janssen vaccine against covid-19 recommended for people over 18 years of age in the United States population under the FDA emergency use authorization?
This is the third coronavirus vaccine to win an emergency use authorization, after Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccine.
J & J’s can be kept at normal refrigerator temperature for three months and requires only one dose, something committee members said would make it easier to distribute and administer. According to experts, it would make it much easier to distribute than the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech.
A vote from this group is one of the last required federal regulatory steps before the vaccine can be shipped to states and vaccination programs.
The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
The vaccine has been tested in more than 44,000 people in the US, South Africa and Latin America. Globally, it was 66.1% effective against moderate to severe / critical COVID-19 at least four weeks after vaccination, according to an FDA analysis. In the United States, it is considered 72% effective and offers 86% protection against severe forms of the disease.
Overall, serious non-fatal adverse events were rare, based on FDA analysis, and no cases of anaphylaxis were reported after vaccination in the trial. There have been a small number of serious allergic reactions with the Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines. For example, in the first week of the Pfizer vaccine launch, there were only 29 cases out of 1.9 million doses administered, according to the CDC.
More research is needed so far, but the FDA analysis also hinted that the J&J vaccine may help prevent asymptomatic infections.
A January CDC study showed that most coronavirus cases are transmitted by people without symptoms. If a vaccine prevented an asymptomatic infection, it could help reduce the chances of transmitting the disease, not just keep those vaccinated from getting sick.
The J&J vaccine, a different vaccine
There is some concern among public health leaders that some people will think that the J&J vaccine is “second class” because it is less effective than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but experts say it is important for people to remember that these are totally different vaccines.
The J&J vaccine was tested at a time when there were more variants in circulation. Following tests in South Africa and Brazil, an FDA analysis found that the majority of COVID-19 cases in J & J’s trials were due to variants believed to be more contagious.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested against the South African variant in South Africa, it was tested against the variant in Brazil. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines did not do it that way, we are not comparing the same thing, ”said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. “When you look at what we really compare on preventing hospitalizations and deaths, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine goes to 100% once it has had a chance to work.”
“This is an excellent vaccine and I would certainly take it,” Jha said Sunday on CNN’s Inside Politics. “I would recommend it to my family and I think people who are concerned about that headline number, I say ignore it because that’s not really what they care about.”
The three Covid-19 vaccines have not been compared head-to-head, so it would be impossible to know if one is better than the other.
“These are three highly effective vaccines,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I can tell you that I was fully vaccinated with one that was available. It was the Modern. If I didn’t get vaccinated now and I had the option to get a J&J vaccine now or wait for another vaccine, I would take whatever vaccine is available to me as soon as possible.
“We want to vaccinate as many people as quickly and expeditiously as possible,” Fauci said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union program. “So this is good news because we have another very good vaccine in the mix.”