Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Ships to Millions


Justin Durko, Staff Writer

Late last week, the multinational company Johnson & Johnson (under its pharmaceutical branch Janssen) began shipping 4 million doses of its approved COVID-19 vaccine across the United States. This comes after Pfizer and Moderna released and received approval for their vaccines earlier this year.

During the vaccine’s trial period, Johnson & Johnson claimed a 66 percent effectiveness in protecting patients against moderate to severe COVID-19 illness. An expert panel of the FDA had recommended its approval late in February, and it was subsequently approved by the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization on the 27th. The first dose of the new vaccine was administered on the 3rd, given at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio. With three active vaccines, President Biden is seeking to accomplish his goal of administering 100 million vaccine shots within his first 100 days in office, which is nearing its completion ahead of schedule.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a single shot dose, which initially prompted questions of efficacy from the public. This is further complicated through the recent spread of new COVID-19 variants across the world, including the UK variant that surfaced late last year and the South African variant that has been found in several U.S. states this past week. While the clinical trials for the vaccine took place while the South African and Brazilian variants had become the dominant strains in their countries of origin, it is studied to be slightly less effective in targeting the South African variant than the common strain that is active in the United States.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also differs in its immunization technique, as it is not an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines. Instead, it is an adenovirus vector vaccine, which uses the DNA of the COVID-19 virus protein to elicit an immune response. Three other vaccines of this type have been approved in other countries, including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK. They have not only been observed to be effective with just a single dose but also easier to store over time, as they may be stored for several months with ordinary refrigeration.

Although it has been studied to be effective, the vaccine has garnered some controversy in the past week. After its rollout, bishops and other leaders of the Catholic Church discouraged Christians from receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to the vaccine’s connection to cell lines that originated with tissue from abortions in the 1970s. The Vatican had released a statement in December of last year that it is “morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses,” although this has not stopped smaller institutions, such as the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, from releasing their own, contradictory, statements.