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FDA Clears Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine

Emergency authorization gives US a third option against the virus, as the single-shot doses are already being delivered

The Food and Drug Administration voted Saturday to authorize emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine. The company says distribution of nearly 4 million doses had already begun to states, pharmacies and community health centers across the nation this week.

According to reports by CNBC, J&J’s vice president of US medical affairs, Dr. Richard Nettles, told House lawmakers the company aims to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March, and has a deal in place with the government to supply 100 million doses by the end of June.

Unlike the other two vaccines that have been approved for emergency use, one from Pfizer and another from Moderna, J&J’s vaccine only requires one dose and can be stored at refrigerated temperatures for months, which greatly simplifies the logistics of distributing and administering the shots.

In J&J’s late-stage trials, the vaccine was found to be 66 percent effective overall, with protection that varied by region, and demonstrated 72 percent efficacy in the United States, less among test groups in Latin America and South Africa.

Both the two other vaccines were found to be over 94 percent effective at preventing COVID-19. However, infectious disease experts caution that J&J’s results can’t be compared directly to the other two vaccines because it’s a single dose and the company’s trial was conducted later in the pandemic with more cases prevalent as well as new, more contagious variants.

At the beginning stages of vaccine development, FDA had indicated that a safe vaccine that is at least 50 percent effective could be a valuable tool in combating the virus. By comparison, the yearly flu vaccine is generally about 40 percent to 60 percent effective at reducing incidence of influenza compared with people who aren’t inoculated, according to the CDC.

The rollout of vaccination programs globally is widely seen by travelers as key to a successful resumption of travel. Leisure travel is reportedly already seeing a boost in bookings into the summer, while business travel is predicted to pick up in the second half of 2021, although a return of corporate travel to pre-pandemic levels is likely not to occur before 2025, according to some recent surveys.