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Colorado expecting Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses by Friday

Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Posted at 8:10 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 23:34:40-05

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) said the state is expecting the first allotment of Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine by Friday, March 5.

The FDA just granted Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccine from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson, over the weekend.

CDPHE said they’re expecting 45,500 doses of Janssen vaccines by Friday, but they treat all orders as estimates until they arrive. The vaccine will be eligible to Coloradans as soon as Friday at a number of community vaccination sites across the state.

The Janssen vaccine requires only one dose, unlike the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

It uses a delivery system different from the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to train the immune system to fight COVID-19, according to CDPHE.

Dr. Ross Kedl, a professor of immunology and microbiology at the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine, said the Janssen vaccine uses viral vector technology, meaning the vaccine is made from an inactivated adenovirus that will be able "infect" the cells but not replicate itself.

"All of the processes by which your body recognizes the infection of the cell and the immune response against it, the J&J vaccine engages remarkably well. It produces a slightly different balance of immunity."

Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines, on the other hand, work with mRNA technology.

"They're sort of like bio-hacking. They're trying to mimic a virus without an actual virus infection," Kedl said. "They get taken into a cell and their mechanism is very much mimicking the process by which your immune system identifies a viral infection and then responds to it."

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines both use single-stranded mRNA, while the Janssen uses a piece of double-stranded DNA.

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“We are thrilled to be able to distribute a third safe and effective vaccine in the state of Colorado,” said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer, Colorado Department Public Health Environment. “The authorization of the Janssen vaccine will make it easier for the state to reach its vaccination goals as more people become eligible in the weeks to come. When it’s your turn to get a vaccine -- whether it’s Moderna, Pfizer, or Janssen -- I hope you choose to get it. With every dose administered, we are all safer and closer to ending this crisis.”

CDPHE said none of the three vaccines is currently recommended over any other. They’re all considered to be safe and effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease, according to the department.

Kedl said the Janssen vaccine has an efficacy rate that's beyond satisfactory.

"There's a really strong efficacy profile of it [Janssen vaccine] against any disease, as well as really significant disease and severe disease. There's a 100% protection against hospitalization starting 28 days after the immunization. So, that's really good news. There's really good efficacy in South Africa, which the other vaccinations haven't shown quite as well," Kedl said. "So, there's some strong evidence it has some good efficacy against these variants."

According to the FDA, the single-dose vaccine has an efficacy rate of around 72% in the U.S., and an efficacy rate of around 86% when it comes to preventing severe forms of the disease.

"It's still at an efficacy that any vaccinologist would be overjoyed to see," Kedl said. "The J&J vaccine is really good at making both B and T cell responses, so it's a little more balanced equation."

Kedl predicted the Janssen vaccine would have significant, positive long-term impacts.

"The data will be found out. I think all the vaccines are going to be found to be very durable. My guess is that the J&J might have a longer durability profile, in terms of the immunity it makes — that's my guess," Kedl said.

He added the transmission data of the vaccine was also critical.

"I think one of the most exciting parts of it is they have some data that the vaccine itself is blocking transmission up to about 75%," Kedl said.

During a Monday press briefing, state health officials remained vague on if or how the Janssen vaccine might impact the state's vaccination timetables. They said they believe the single-dose vaccine will be easier to get into communities because storage requirements for the latest vaccine aren't as strict.

The FDA's fact sheet on the vaccine can be found here.