- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday approved the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use, clearing the way for up to 4 million doses to ship within days as demand outstrips the supply of two existing vaccines.

Regulators said the vaccine met their criteria for use in persons 18 or older.

“The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said.

It’s the third vaccine approved for use in the U.S. against the pandemic that’s upended the economy and normal life.

The messenger-RNA vaccines approved in December require two doses to achieve the protection demonstrated in their clinical trials.

But J&J’s one-dose version, which uses an adenovirus platform, doesn’t require a return visit and it can last up to three months in a normal refrigerator, making it versatile.

Its efficacy rate of 66% against all forms of disease wasn’t as robust as the 95% demonstrated by the mRNA vaccines but the J&J shot did the job in staving off severe cases and hospitalization.

It was also tested in more difficult circumstances than the mRNA versions, competing with aggressive coronavirus variants circulating in Brazil and South Africa.

President Biden hailed the news but tempered his enthusiasm with a warning.

“Though we celebrate today’s news, I urge all Americans — keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing masks. As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse,” he said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable.”

Officials expect 3 million to 4 million of the J&J shots to ship in the coming days alongside batches of Pfizer and Moderna shots, bringing the total weekly allotment closer to 20 million.

Governors and localities will have to sort through how they distribute the vaccine, versus their supply of existing versions, as many Americans clamor for their turn.

The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will hold an emergency meeting on the J&J vaccine on Sunday, so their recommendations should guide states and health providers.

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