Jan 14, 2021 - Health

Delays overshadow Johnson & Johnson vaccine's long-lasting potential

Photo of the Johnson & Johnson company building's exterior
Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images via Getty

Participants who received Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine in an early study developed coronavirus immunity for at least 71 days, but a production lag could mean a rollout of fewer-than-promised doses, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: If approved, J&J’s vaccine would be the first available to protect from COVID with a single dose, streamlining vaccine administration and distribution.

The big picture: The U.S. government signed a $1 billion contract with J&J last August. The drug company promised that 12 million doses of its vaccine would be ready for deployment by the end of this February and a total of 100 million doses by the end of June.

  • J&J has fallen behind schedule by as much as two months and likely won’t catch up until the end of April, the Times reports.
  • This could lead to a shortage in doses once spring comes around; the federal government has only secured enough to vaccinate 200 million of the roughly 260 million eligible adults in the first half of 2021.

Yes, but: J&J’s vaccine, which results in development of neutralizing antibodies, is long-lasting and doesn’t require freezing like Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s shots, per Bloomberg.

  • J&J’s vaccine can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for three months.

What they're saying: "The pandemic shows no signs of slowing, and we, like everyone, are eager for more tools to help stop it," J&J said in a statement to Axios.

  • "We have begun production of our vaccine candidate and are confident in our ability to meet our 2021 supply commitments signed with governments, and we expect to share more detail after some of these steps are achieved."

What to watch: Results from a late-stage trial of 45,000 volunteers will offer more data in the coming weeks, but the company anticipates a high efficacy rate at or above 70%, Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels told Bloomberg.

  • J&J also began a separate late-stage study of its two-dose vaccination process in November and expects data this summer.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Johnson & Johnson's statement.

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