On Feb. 27, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, making it the third coronavirus-fighting vaccine to be available in the United States.
While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use genetic material called mRNA to teach our cells to create a protein that triggers an immune response against COVID-19, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a different mechanism. This new vaccine uses adenovirus, a modified version of the virus that causes the common cold. The adenovirus can enter cells but can’t replicate or cause illness. It induces the cell to produce COVID-19 spike proteins, which then trigger an immune response. It’s impossible to get COVID 19 from the injection — the vaccine is just preparing the body so it’s ready to fight.
Elizabeth Ransom, MD, FACS, executive vice president and chief physician executive of Baptist Health, answered some frequently asked questions about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine:
How well does it work? The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death. It is 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and about 85% effective at preventing the most serious form of COVID-19. Dr. Ransom notes the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested when new COVID-19 variants, including the South African variant, began emerging, which could have contributed to its lower efficacy compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
How many doses do I need? The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose.
How is it stored? This vaccine requires traditional refrigeration, instead of the ultra-cold storage required by the previously released vaccines.
What are the side effects? People who receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may feel the same side effects as those who receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, including soreness at the site of the injection, headache and fatigue.
For those who are wondering which vaccine to get, Dr. Ransom has a simple answer: the first one you are offered.
“Have confidence in the science that went into these vaccines and trust the process,” Dr. Ransom said. “Recognize how important it is to get vaccinated.”
At Baptist Health, we want to help keep our community informed about COVID-19. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines as they become more widely available to the public, visit baptistjax.com/covid19vaccine.