COVID-19 Vaccines

March 9, 2021

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Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

An update on the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine 

Every day worldwide, thousands of people are getting their COVID-19 vaccines. Let’s just stop and think about how hopeful that sounds… 

The two vaccines that have been distributed in the US since early December have been manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. These companies both produced vaccines require two doses approximately 4 weeks apart to reach full effectiveness. Both have an efficacy rate of about 95% at preventing severe COVID-19 symptoms and death. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is one that requires ultra-cold conditions when in storage and transit (-70℃) and the Moderna vaccine also requires some chilly conditions (-20℃). Although these vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 and death, there is a lot that goes along with it. Not even bringing the temperature requirement into consideration, the double dose requirement on its own is quite the feat. Considering the logistics of scheduling people in an online database and organizing vaccine sites with volunteers during the winter season has proven to be quite the challenge even in major metropolitan areas like New York City; Dallas, Texas; and Los Angeles, California.  

Fortunately, as the months go by, each day seems to be getting slightly better than the last. More vaccine clinics are popping up everywhere, and infrastructure has been able to support up to thousands of vaccine recipients per day at some facilities. This is all great news if you are living in a major city or populous area.  

But what about the rest of us in New England?  

Those living in rural areas are more vulnerable and may be less likely to get vaccinated due to lack of quick access to medical care, reliable access to phone and internet service (for scheduling appointments), and may not always have the means to drive to the nearest vaccine site. Not to mention those pesky temperature requirements for storage of the vaccines.  

Even if you had a reliable phone and internet service, had a nice car, and a pharmacy that has the means of storing the vaccine; what if it meant taking the day off of work (and possibly hiring someone to watch the kids while they do Zoom school) just to get a vaccine? Unfortunately, this is the reality that thousands of people living in rural areas are facing.  

Those with these concerns should start to feel their nerves ease because of February 24th, the FDA announced that a new vaccine may be on the horizon. Johnson & Johnson has been the first pharmaceutical manufacturer to produce a COVID-19 vaccine that can be stored and transported at regular medical refrigerator temperatures (like the flu vaccine), and only requires one dose to reach full effectiveness. Although this vaccine has a peak effectiveness of about 66.9%, this is still incredibly impressive.  

Although this vaccine effectiveness rate may seem low, it is actually higher than the annual flu vaccine which has an effectiveness rate of around 50-60%. Just think of all the years you have been getting the flu vaccine and have not been getting the flu or have only experienced mild symptoms.  

As of now, the FDA has only announced this information officially. They have not approved it for Emergency Use Authorization. A council plans to meet on February 26th to discuss the approval and mobilization of distribution.  

We hope this news is something that brightens your day and may be something that makes you reconsider getting the COVID-19 vaccine! As always, stay safe and be well!  

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