WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two.
Health experts are anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations, as they race against a virus that already has killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly worrisome ways.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health, says J&J’s vaccine should also be able to fix the vaccine supply issues the region has dealt with and allow for it to go into much smaller communities.
According to the FDA, that vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.
“I would take any of these vaccines,” Blumberg advised.
“The more vaccines that have high efficacy that we can get into play, the better,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said ahead of the FDA’s ruling.
Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.
“This will make a big difference in areas that don’t have that deep freeze storage capacity, so rural areas for example,” Blumberg said.
Blumberg says some people could be picky about which vaccine to get but he recommends getting whichever one is available.
“All these vaccines protect against death that’s the main thing you want. You want to be protected against death, so just take the next vaccine,” Blumberg said.
The vaccine needs to go through two more steps, but they’re considered minor compared to getting emergency authorization from the FDA.