Dr. Jason Pickett, the Austin-Travis County alternate health authority, said at a news conference Feb. 26 that the vaccine is headed to an FDA committee Feb. 26 for review, and, if approved, will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic.
“I’m really excited that we have yet another vaccine that should shortly be available. This will give us another 100 million doses [in the country] that can be put into people's arms to protect them from this deadly virus,” he said.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does have its differences from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently being used by APH. Pickett said an advantage is it can be kept at regular refrigerated temperatures, as opposed to the subzero requirements needed for the earlier vaccines. Johnson & Johnson is also a single dose, meaning individuals only receive one shot instead of two.
In terms of efficacy, Johnson & Johnson is about 70% effective compared to Pfizer and Moderna, both of which are closer to 95% effective, he said. However, he encouraged residents who are currently eligible to get any COVID-19 vaccine that is available to them.
“The fact that you can get only one shot, the fact that it can tolerate a better temperature range and can get out to providers that wouldn’t be able to handle the other vaccines effectively, I think that makes this a really effective vaccine against the pandemic.” he said. “The bottom line is: Get any of these vaccines that you can get.”
As the county waits for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's availability, APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said Texas is scheduled to receive a large allotment of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses. She said getting the potential new doses in the hands of approved providers will be helpful to expediting the vaccination process.
“As more vaccines are being rolled out with more providers in our community, that will definitely strengthen our community and Texas as a whole,” she said. “We are definitely looking forward to receiving all of those vaccines and having more providers that will be providing vaccines in Travis County.”
Pickett said he is anxious to hear about Travis County’s next allotment and getting doses to the public as quickly as possible. He said the availability of vaccines is currently what is limiting the rate in which individuals can be vaccinated in Travis County.
“We give every dose that we’re allocated, and if we could wave a magic wand and get many thousands more, then we would give those too and do it quickly,” he said.