Johnson & Johnson filed for emergency use authorization Thursday for its newly-created Covid-19 vaccine — developed with researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School — after announcing results from its phase three clinical trials last Friday.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is now awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration, was reported to have a 66 percent efficacy rate in preventing moderate-to-severe infection and a 85 percent efficacy rate in protecting against severe infection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The vaccine also was said to offer recipients “complete protection” against hospitalization and death, according to the company.
Dan H. Barouch ’93 — a professor at Harvard Medical School and the director of Beth Israel’s Center for Virology and Vaccine Research who has led design efforts for the vaccine alongside Johnson & Johnson since January 2020 — said the efficacy rates are high not only in the United States but also in Latin America and South Africa, where mutant variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been reported.
“It’s the first time a vaccine efficacy study for Covid-19 has been conducted in the set in the modern era of the resistant viral variants that we’re hearing about,” Barouch said.
According to Barouch, the vaccines that are currently in use, including the shots developed by Pfizer and Moderna, were developed at a point in the pandemic before variants of the virus emerged.
Bruce D. Walker, founding director of the Ragon Institute, highlighted the continued importance of developing backup vaccines that will target variants of Covid-19.
“I think that we will see, even within the next two months, new trials starting that will be testing vaccines that are targeted not just to the original SARS-CoV-2, but also these more resistant variants,” Walker said.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a relatively affordable, single-shot vaccine that does not require sub-zero freezing. Such traits distinguish it from other coronavirus vaccines and make it “ideal for global delivery,” per Walker.
“J&J has committed to making the vaccine available on a nonprofit basis,” Barouch said. “And it’s inexpensive.”
The vaccine will be available for distribution immediately after Johnson & Johnson receives emergency use authorization from the FDA, which is expected to occur within the next three weeks.
“Until we’ve vaccinated everybody, we're not really going to control the pandemic,” Walker said. “We’ve got to look at this as a global challenge that we all need to rise to meet.”
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