If approved, Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in Louisiana next week
BATON ROUGE - A third weapon against COVID-19 could soon be in Louisiana's war chest, as the Federal Drug Administration is poised to grant emergency use authorization to the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine Friday.
If all goes as expected, that approval could be finalized over the weekend, with doses shipped out almost immediately.
"We could be receiving Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as the governor said, as early as next week," Dr. Joe Kanter of the Louisiana Department of Health said during Gov. John Bel Edwards' weekly coronavirus news conference Thursday.
Federal officials have told Louisiana to expect roughly 38,000 doses of the single-dose shot in the first week of distribution.
Louisiana is already expecting to receive its largest weekly shipment next week with nearly 98,000 doses, combined, of Pfizer and Moderna doses.
As weekly shipments continue to increase, Kanter highlighted how the J&J vaccine could prove to be a game-changer.
"The vaccine is a hardier vaccine," Kanter said. "It's easier to transport. It's easier to store, it doesn't require ultra-cold. It lives longer in a regular fridge than freezer. So, it's going to be a lot easier to move this vaccine out into the field."
Edwards said adding this vaccine into the mix would give the state a pretty good shot at standing up mass vaccination sites soon.
"It is a good candidate for mass vaccination events for a couple of reasons," Edwards said. "One, those are net new doses on top of what we're currently getting in Pfizer and Moderna. And secondly, they're one shot, so you don't try to get those people back."
Analysis of Johnson & Johnson's shot released by the FDA Wednesday shows 66% overall efficacy at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, but that jumps to 72% in the United States. Data shows the vaccine offers 85% protection against the most serious cases. None of the people in the trial's vaccinated group died or had to be hospitalized in the 28 days after vaccination.
Kanter warned against comparing the vaccines' clinical trial effectiveness percentages, especially if that comparison might lead to reluctance to get a particular brand's drug. Choosing to skip a chance at getting any of the vaccines in hopes of receiving another would be a "strategic mistake," he said.
"The first chance somebody has to get vaccinated, take that chance," Kanter said. "Do not pass up that opportunity. These trials are not apples to apples, and they're not head-to-head trials either, so it's very challenging to compare these trials between each other. But what looks to be apparent, is 100% efficacious, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, at preventing death, and preventing serious illness that results in hospitalization. That's what you really care about."