What You Need to Know about the Johnson & Johnson Single-Dose Vaccine

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Zan Zaidi, Novan Health UVA Health Sysem

Zan Zaidi, M.D.

Provided by Novant Health UVA Health System

Three’s not a crowd in the case of COVID-19 vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) single-dose vaccine
received Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 27, 2021.

Local health departments are getting allotments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to administer to people meeting Virginia’s eligibility criteria for phase 1A or 1B. Here’s what you need to know about the new one-dose vaccine.

According to Johnson & Johnson, the vaccine offers complete protection in preventing hospitalization and death as a result of the virus. All three vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are extremely effective in preventing symptomatic or severe cases of the virus.

“The influenza vaccine has an effectiveness of 35 percent to 55 percent,” said Zan Zaidi, M.D., physician executive, Novant Health UVA Health System. “So, the fact that we have three vaccines for COVID-19 [with]a substantially higher effectiveness rate against the most serious outcomes is unbelievably good news.”

Advantages of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a different approach than the two-dose vaccines, and only requires one dose to be effective. This technology has been used for decades for a variety of applications and has been successfully used to create other vaccines for use in humans.

Zaidi points out that the vaccine is also easier to store than other vaccines.

“It can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures for up to three months…. [W]e can more easily get it into the community to vaccinate more people against COVID-19,” he said.

The single-dose vaccine may be desirable for people who want to complete their immunization schedule quickly, do not want to return for a second dose or have difficulty returning for a second dose.

Deeper Details

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses “viral vector technology.” Viral vector vaccines use a harmless version of a different virus as a vector to deliver instructions, in the form of genetic material (DNA), to a cell. These instructions are then used by the cell to create a protein that triggers our immune system to respond so it can protect us if faced with an actual infection later. The two-dose vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA, to deliver instructions to our cells, and lead to the creation of the same protein.

None of the vaccines can infect the recipients with COVID-19.

While Johnson & Johnson is the vaccine name most are familiar with, it was actually co-developed by Johnson & Johnson and Janssen. Patients who receive this vaccine will see Janssen in their medical record, not Johnson & Johnson.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved for people age 18 and older.

Possible Side Effects

Similar to the two-dose vaccines, people may experience cold-like symptoms, such as headache, body aches, arm pain and tiredness. Fewer than 10 percent of participants experienced a fever. No one in the Johnson & Johnson one-dose study reported a severe allergic reaction.

Getting Vaccinated is the Most Important Thing

“Our goal remains the same – to meet people where they are in the community,” Zaidi said. “Having a third vaccine on the market is incredible. [Increasing our overall supply] will allow us to vaccinate more people earlier in the year and will get us closer to the end of this pandemic.”

Given the limited vaccine supply, people are not able to choose the type of vaccine they get. All vaccines currently available are safe and protect against COVID-19.

“Regardless of which vaccine you receive, you will be better protected than if you did not receive a vaccine,” Zaidi said. “The most important thing right now is to get as many people vaccinated as possible, as quickly as possible.”

For more information about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine, visit NovantHealthUVA.org/coronavirus.


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