The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed that the drug developed by Johnson & Johnson is effective and ready for approval. After an arduous validation process, the agency could authorize its use as soon as this Saturday. Before that, a meeting will be held today, which can be followed on the Internet, in which the advisory committee will evaluate all the available reports on the vaccine.
Much of the material has already been published and is available to the public. Compared to the 94.1% effectiveness of Moderna’s vaccine and 95% of Pfizer-BioNTech’s, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has recorded 72% effectiveness in preventing the disease in clinical trials carried out in the United States.
Against the South African variant, the most contagious and lethal, the effectiveness drops to 64%. But, crucially, the protection rate against the most acute forms of the coronavirus, which can lead to death, is 82% in South Africa, which recently discarded all AstraZeneca vaccines as ineffective, and 86% against the majority variants in the United States.
This is key news, given that U.S. scientists estimate that some of the new strains may become majority strains in their own country within a few weeks.
As if that were not enough, the Johnson & Johnson drug is a conventional one, as opposed to the cutting-edge technology developed by Moderna and Pfizer, among other things, the contents of the vials do not need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures, which significantly lightens the distribution and storage chain. What’s more, it only requires a single dose.
But since not all can be good news, the laboratories responsible admit that they will only be able to distribute a few million doses in the next few weeks. Johnson & Johnson is talking about four million as of Saturday, and the U.S. government has lowered these forecasts. In the coming months, however, the company should be able to multiply its production, to the point that by early summer it should have delivered close to 100 million vaccines.
The FDA has also reported that the vaccine appears to cause considerably weaker side effects than messenger RNA vaccines. Severe allergic reactions have also not been reported, so the 15/20 minutes that patients have to wait to make sure they are well may not be necessary.