Trucks from production plants in Kentucky and Tennessee carrying Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine rolled out Monday, headed across the U.S. by road and air after the Food and Drug Administration approved the medication on Feb. 27 which only requires a single dose instead of two shots.
However, based on data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the greater Washington region lags far behind other states in the U.S. in terms of the total number of doses they’ll receive.
The DMV region will receive 125,300 doses with Virginia expected to receive 69,700 doses – the 13th highest distribution across states. Maryland will be given 49,600 doses while D.C. anticipates receiving 6,000 shots. Just two states and U.S. territories will receive fewer doses than the District.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday authorized use of the J&J vaccine. The drug company has produced nearly four million doses for initial shipment. The Biden administration said it expects about 20 million doses to be delivered by the end of March.
Health officials in Maryland said lead distribution efforts and allocate the vaccine to mass vaccination sites, hospitals, local health departments and community health centers.
“We continue to follow the science and make vaccinating older Marylanders one of our highest priorities as we work to ensure equitable access to vaccines,” Gov. Larry Hogan said. “This will continue to be a long process but we anticipate more supply coming that will help us increase this pace even further.”
On Sunday, the Virginia Department of Health said based on past distribution, northern Virginia should receive about 25 percent of the initial shipment with mass vaccination clinics as the priority.
The District has not announced how its doses will be distributed. However, both Virginia and Maryland health officials said an additional shipment of J&J vaccines are expected to be sent to pharmacies participating in the federal retail pharmacy partnership.
Evaluation of the J&J Vaccine
The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against serious illness, hospitalizations and death. In a study that encompassed three continents, one dose proved 85 percent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, even in countries like South Africa where variants of most concern continue to spread. However, the J&J rate (72 percent) stands lower than the 95 percent efficacy shown by vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
Health officials expressed concern that this variance could lead Americans to try to “vaccine shop.” Meanwhile, it remains difficult to make direct comparisons between the vaccines because clinical trials were conducted in different locations at different times. For example, the vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna were tested prior to the emergence of troubling new variants in Britain and South Africa. and elsewhere.
“Getting vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you can help protect you from COVID-19,” the CDC reported, while Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the president, said, “whatever COVID vaccine is available, take it.”
On Sunday, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky called the new vaccine “another milestone toward an end to the pandemic.”
Infectious-disease specialist Dr. Linda Nabha pointed to the most important achievement of the J&J single-shot vaccine: zero deaths in a three-continent trial with 45,000 participants.
“One shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine protects you from death, 100 percent of the time,” Nabha said. “And, it protects you from severe disease, 100 percent of the time 49 days after the shot. In my mind, that is extremely effective.”
Health officials note that having two vaccines is good but three’s better and could make a major difference in getting the pandemic under control.
“It could be a total game-changer,” said Dr. Muriel Jean-Jacques, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University. “We’ve never had to vaccinate our whole population at the same time before – not to mention the rest of the world – so having more vaccines will make that easier.”
More About the J&J Vaccine and Side Effects
The single-dose vaccine manufactured by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary called Janssen Biotech does not require ultra-cold storage conditions, as do the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Instead, it can be kept in regular refrigerators. This should ease some distribution challenges, particularly in rural communities. In addition, the vaccine requires only a single dose, unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require two shots three to four weeks apart. A single-dose vaccine could help boost the country’s rate of vaccination, and increasing the number of people vaccinated each week will be critical for containing new outbreaks, especially as more contagious variants of the coronavirus become more widespread.
Side effects that have been reported with the J&J vaccine include injection site reactions: pain, redness of the skin and swelling; and general side effects: headache, feeling very tired, muscle aches, nausea and fever. A remote chance remains that the J&J vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction – usually occurring within a few minutes to one hour after getting the single dose. For this reason, your health provider may ask you to stay at the place where you received your vaccine for monitoring after vaccination. Signs of a severe allergic reaction may include: difficulty breathing; swelling of the face and throat; a rapid heartbeat; a bad rash all over one’s body; and dizziness and weakness.
Other side effects remain possible with the J&J vaccine still being studied in clinical trials.