State officials hope Johnson & Johnson vaccines will arrive soon after FDA approval

Nevada News
This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.

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Nevada health officials are continuing to monitor the progress of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as it nears U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

“We continue to watch this process at the federal level and we’ll be ready to accept this vaccine when it is deemed safe and effective,” McDaniel said.

According to McDaniel, the vaccine will be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. There are numerous differences between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the original Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, she said.

“It is easier to transport and store because it can be refrigerated for three months,” McDaniel said. “Also, this vaccine was not tested in the same settings as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.”

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The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested in an ensemble study in the United States, but also in South Africa and South America where more challenging COVID-19 variants have originated.

While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which deliver a dose of the virus’ genetic code, the Johnson & Johnson product instead “delivers viral protein and triggers an immune response”.

As a single-shot vaccine that has been tested to be 66% effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, compared to the 95% effective rate of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Nevada COVID-19 response Director Caleb Cage said that testing in other countries may have dragged down its efficacy in clinical trials.

“The U.S. numbers for Johnson and Johnson when compared to the U.S. numbers from Pfizer and Moderna have been pretty similar,” Cage said. “Close to parity.”

As for when that vaccine will arrive, health officials say they still are not sure. If the product makes it through the FDA approval process, it will also be reviewed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Based on the speed that the previous two vaccines moved through the process, McDaniel said she anticipates the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to arrive for Nevadans about a week after it is officially deemed safe and ready to public use.

“What we do know from our experience from the last two products is that we were able to essentially receive those shipments in that following week,” McDaniel said. “We’re just planning for that same sort of structure but, obviously, we need to wait and make sure the FDA supports it being safe and effective.”

About 6.5% of Nevadans, or 204,318 people, have received both doses of the available COVID-19 vaccines as of Thursday. According to McDaniel, over 620,000 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

COVID-19 in Nevada

Statewide, the number of COVID-19 cases continues to drop as Nevada reported the 14-day moving average has reached 314 daily new cases. 

There have only been two days with daily new cases below 314 since June 22. At its peak on Dec. 11 last year, the 14-day moving average was as high as 2,716 new daily cases.

Keep reading:Nevada ranks 9th in COVID vaccine utilization; Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be here soon

Confirmed hospitalizations have reached their lowest mark since Oct. 24 with 437 hospitalizations reported on Thursday.

The 14-day moving average for test positivity rate dropped to 8.3% on Thursday, its lowest percentage since mid-October.

Follow reporter Terell Wilkins on Twitter, @terelljwilkins, call him at 252-367-8463 or email him at twilkins@rgj.com.

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