In the battle against COVID-19, the United States may soon add another weapon to the arsenal.
Johnson & Johnson announced, on Friday, that its single-dose vaccine was 66% effective in preventing COVID-19 in a large global trial against multiple variants.
In the study of nearly 44,000 volunteers across three continents, the level of protection against moderate and severe COVID-19 varied from 72% in the United States, to 66% in Latin America but just 57% in South Africa, where a particularly worrying variant has been circulating.
The U.S. found its first cases of the South African variant in the state of South Carolina this week.
The globe is in an urgent race – trying to vaccinate as many people as possible – before more of these variants can spread further and others can emerge. Cut down on global cases, and you cut down on the chance for new, dangerous mutations.
Top U.S. infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci:
“This is a wakeup call to all of us that we will be dealing as the virus uses its devices to evade pressure, particularly immunological pressure, that we will continue to see the evolution of mutants. That means that we – as a government, the companies, all of us that are in this together – will have to be nimble. (flash) This all tells us that it is an incentive to do what we’ve been saying all along to vaccinated as many people as we can as quickly as we can.”
J&J plans to seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next week.
It has said it plans to deliver 1 billion doses of the vaccine globally in 2021, which it will make in the United States, Europe, South Africa and India.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, J&J’s does not require a second shot weeks after the first nor does it need to be kept frozen, making it a strong candidate for use in parts of the world where transportation and cold storage present problems.