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Local health leaders prepare to add Johnson & Johnson vaccine to distribution plan

Updated: Feb. 26, 2021 at 4:27 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The FDA is expected grant emergency use authorization of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. That means a third vaccine could enter the U.S. market as early as next week.

North Carolina state officials are expected to receive anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as early as next week. Already local health systems are strategizing how they will incorporate a third vaccine into their distribution plans.

Tyron Medical Partners’ Dr. Ryan Shelton explained how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a different method to build immunity against the virus than Pfizer and Moderna.

“They’re actually using a technology that has been studies for decades,” Dr. Shelton said. “It uses a common cold adenovirus to deliver genetic material that causes our cells to make antibodies eventually against the coronavirus.”

He noted that you will not get a cold or the coronavirus from this vaccine.

One advantage to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it only requires one dose.

“That’s going to go twice as far in terms of once we’re able to distribute,” Dr. Shelton said.

It also does not need sub-freezing or freezing temperatures for storage. Dr. Shelton said you can store the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a common refrigerator.

Novant Health officials are already considering how that benefit could expand their distribution efforts.

“It makes it infinitely more transportable to areas that are more challenging to reach… rural areas or people who are sick and shut in,” Dr. Jerome Williams Jr. of Novant Health said.

Johnson & Johnson was found to be 66 percent effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 illness compared to about 95 percent for the other vaccines.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is about 85 percent effective at preventing severe illness from the virus. And studies show it’s 100 percent effective against COVID-19 deaths.

Despite the percentage differences, local health leaders said we shouldn’t get caught up in the numbers because all three vaccines are highly effective.

“I don’t know that we can say one is more effective than the other because all the trials were set up differently,” Novant Health’s Becky Bean said.

“We know that it keeps people out of the hospital and from dying. So, those are the two most important aspects,” Williams Jr. said.

“We literally are on a race against time to get everybody back as quickly as we can, and we’re not able to do it fast enough right now so that is the bigger issue really,” Dr. Shelton said.

Novant Health leaders say they are discussing how they will implement Johnson & Johnson into their distribution strategy, but right now they are just excited to have more vaccine supply.

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