Authorization of Johnson & Johnson vaccine will push U.S. closer to herd immunity, says public health expert
February 26, 2021
With the Food and Drug Administration expected to authorize the third COVID-19 vaccine this week, and more infectious variants on the rise, Virginia Tech public health expert Lisa M. Lee says this is very good news for helping to slow the spread of the virus and preventing severe illness and deaths nationwide.
“The addition of a third COVID-19 vaccine substantially reduces the time it takes the U.S. to reach herd immunity—when a high enough proportion of the population is immunized and we can disrupt the spread of this disease,” says Lee.
Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will help ease the logistical challenges of shipping and storing, and only require a simple one-dose shot.
“Getting 75-85% of the population vaccinated will be easier with this additional vaccine option, especially because it, unlike the first two, does not require a complex frozen or ultra-frozen transport and storage systems, and requires only one shot, instead of the two required by the others,” says Lee.
Lee explains that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has shown to be 85% efficacious in preventing serious disease, including death, and has efficacy against new variants.
“This is very good news. Preliminary analyses indicate an additional benefit of it reducing the likelihood of viral transmission meaning that people who received the vaccine are protected both from getting sick and from getting infected with the virus,” says Lee. “Given that so much spread happens from people who are infected but do not know it, this is a very promising finding.”
“Stopping the spread of the virus is more important than ever,” says Lee. “Not only because it will prevent severe illness and deaths, but because the more the virus is transmitted, the more likely it is to develop mutations that can make it more contagious and more lethal. We have already seen this is the new, more infectious variants that are now widespread in the U.S. New variants are likely to eventually evade the vaccines, so if we don’t stop this now, we will be dealing with COVID-19 restrictions on our lives for a very long time.”
Lisa M. Lee is a public health expert specializing in infectious disease epidemiology and public health ethics. She also serves as the associate vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech, where she leads the division of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance. Lee has worked in public health and ethics at the local, state, and federal levels, including 14 years at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the Obama administration, she served as executive director of the Presidential Bioethics Commission. More here.
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