GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine likely on the verge of approval from the FDA Friday, health experts are excited for a third option.
With a lower efficacy rate however, some are worried people won’t want that version of the vaccine, but the Kent County Health Department said that any COVID vaccine is a great one.
“I think that it’s just important to get a vaccine in your arm, no matter what type it is,” said Mary Wisinski, registered nurse and KCHD immunization program supervisor.
It’s the big message from the department as they wait to learn if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets the green light.
“I would be equally comfortable with my family getting any of these vaccines.” Wisinski said.
Wisiniski told FOX 17 News that even though the Johnson & Johnson vaccine hasn’t been approved yet, they anticipate people having reservations about its 66% percent efficacy rate, compared to Moderna and Pfizer’s 95%.
She said, “I do think that this looks like it’s not as good of a vaccine when you just look at those numbers, but it’s important to remember that the studies were not done head to head, and they were done in different countries.”
Basically that means it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Instead Wisinski added that there’s one very important metric to look at.
”All three of these vaccines had a very similar profile, which was close to 100% for preventing severe disease and hospitalization,” she said.
Wiskinski said that they’ll need guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for detailed recommended uses, but as with the two vaccines already in circulation, who gets what, will be based on venue.
She said, “I think when you’re looking at vaccine transport and keeping the vaccine viable, that will be more of the decision making versus what people this vaccine should be utilized for.”
Hypothetically, if someone were to make a vaccine appointment at the Kent County mass vaccination clinic at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids and, once they arrived, learned they’d be getting the Johnson & Johnson shot, and didn’t want it, they could end up having to forfeit their appointment.
“That’s a personal choice,” said Wisinski. “If you choose not to take that vaccine, then that is your choice, but my message is all vaccines are important; they all three work.”
She adds that they are already seeing so-called ‘vaccine shoppers’ who want to know if they are getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when the department calls to schedule their appointment.
“People have to know that when they make an appointment for a COVID vaccine, it’s just that, a COVID vaccine. It’s not for a specific brand because I can’t promise that in advance.”
Regardless of the brand, Wisinski said that she is eager to have another weapon in the fight against COVID-19.
“All three of the vaccines prevent serious disease and hospitalizations, but as a public health tool, getting vaccine in arms will also prevent the virus from mutating and get us much closer to the herd immunity we are all hoping for, so we can get our lives back to normal.”
Wisinski said that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given as a one-shot dose and also does not require the same ultra-cold storage that the Pfizer vaccine does. Those two things make the version more accessible for rural areas and regular doctors' offices.