Three Things to Know about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine


Dr. Todd Ellerin

Todd Ellerin, MD, Director of Infectious Disease

Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to a new COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

This highly-anticipated third vaccine changes the vaccination game.

The “J&J” vaccine is a single-dose vaccination, unlike the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Storing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine doesn’t require specialized freezers—only basic refrigeration that’s available at most primary care offices, urgent care providers, and neighborhood health centers.

And, having a third company put its manufacturing might behind producing doses will provide greater access to this life-saving vaccine for everyone.

But, like with all things coronavirus, there is already misinformation out there about the J&J vaccine.

Here’s what to keep in mind.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine prevents severe illness

Remember: The goal of all three COVID-19 vaccines is to prevent severe illness and death from this virus.

In clinical trials, the J&J vaccine completely protected against hospitalization and death 28 days after vaccination. Think about that: Even if someone in the clinical trial contracted COVID-19, they did not need a hospital bed to survive.

If you could have taken a shot in March 2020 that would have spared your life if you caught COVID-19, would you have taken it?

I would have.

A note about “efficacy” of COVID-19 vaccines

Many people see headlines about the J&J vaccine not being as “effective” against preventing infection when compared with Moderna or Pfizer and may be skeptical about receiving it.

This can be misleading, since the Moderna and Pfizer clinical trials had different criteria for defining effectiveness than Johnson & Johnson.

Comparing the two-dose vaccines to the single shot is a bit like comparing apples and oranges.

The best vaccine against COVID-19 is the one you can get

When it’s your turn to be vaccinated, I encourage you to get whichever vaccine is available, wherever you can get it.

The Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer vaccines are all incredible, life-saving tools against this pandemic.

At South Shore Health, we continue to work with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to find ways we can be part of a regional approach to vaccinating South Shore residents.

This includes engaging our region’s community partners, faith-based organizations, and others to educate South Shore residents about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, as well as facilitating vaccine distribution in low-income and affordable housing.

Visit our website for more information about COVID-19 vaccination.