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Doctors discuss 'lower efficacy' rate of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine

Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 17:23:55-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — With a third COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, doctors are hopeful that it will boost vaccine distribution and immunity.

While the Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine just 72% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID infections, doctors in West Michigan said that any protection is important.

“I get where people are like ‘Oh, I’ll wait around for the Pfizer or Moderna,” said Dr. Andrew Jameson, the Division Chief of Infectious Disease at Mercy Health when talking about understanding vaccine data.

Dr. Jameson knows that COVID information and vaccine data is confusing. especially when trying to understand at efficacy rates.

He explained, “It is very hard for the general public to interpret data when the end points are different. So Johnson & Johnson used moderate to severe COVID-19 as an end point and Pfizer and Moderna used just getting diagnosed with COVID-19 with symptoms as an end point.”

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s shots boast about 95% effectiveness in protecting against COVID-19. Johnson & Johnson’s just 72%.

Dr. Jameson said however, that percentage is still enough to keep severe illness at bay if you do happen to get sick.

He said, “If we could give you something that would pretty much guarantee that you were not going to be hospitalized and won’t die from COVID, would you do that?”

Keeping people out of the hospital is what Dr. Jameson said is key to beating the virus.

“The times when we see overall death numbers go up from COVID is when hospital systems get overwhelmed,” he explained.

With potentially more vaccines in circulation, Dr. Jameson is confident the Johnson and Johnson one-shot system will be a big plus to certain groups.

“There are some downsides to it in terms of that overall viral efficacy, but I think that if we are talking about a simple, one shot, easy way to give you good protection from death, that is not a bad place to be,” Dr. Jameson said.

Johnson & Johnson has submitted their request for Emergency Use Authorization to the FDA, so there could be a decision on approval by the end of February.