Johnson & Johnson on Thursday filed for an emergency use authorization of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It is being described as a game changer in global efforts to finally bring the respiratory disease under control in the United States and around the world.
Although not as effective as the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna, the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has unique advantages: it is only a one-shot vaccine, easier to store and reportedly cheaper to produce. It is expected to reach more people.
“Upon authorization of our investigational COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, we are ready to begin shipping,” Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, said in a statement on Thursday. “We are working with great urgency to make our investigational vaccine available to the public as quickly as possible.”
Hundreds of millions of Americans still need access to vaccinations, and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies are in a race to deliver. Johnson & Johnson was one of the first funded by the United States government. Under the Trump administration, $456 million was invested in trials, resulting in a one-billion-dollar deal to provide 100 million shots.
Johnson & Johnson is not the only company working on a vaccine, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Moderna are all planning to deliver around 200 million doses, working closely with the Biden administration.
The major downside is the emergence of variant strains of COVID-19, and it’s believed that the Johnson & Johnson single-dose-shot will be less effective against a South Africa Covid-19 strain, falling to just 57 percent effectiveness. Variant strains, dubbed B.1.351, have been discovered in the U.S., bringing new challenges for pharmaceutical manufacturing companies still working on getting the first vaccine approved for the original strain of COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and plans to publicly and transparently share their findings, but this will take weeks.