The first single-dose Covid-19 vaccine is here


Distribution of the vaccine began last night, right after the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky officially rubber-stamped the authorization. The first doses of the vaccine will be delivered as early as tomorrow morning, one senior administration official said in a briefing call.

The J&J vaccine is a bit different than the two already in use in the US. Most importantly, it only requires one dose and is easier to handle, because it can be kept at simple refrigerator temperatures for up to three months. That makes its rollout a lot easier compared to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

The technology is different too. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a brand-new technology called messenger RNA, or mRNA. They deliver genetic material directly into cells, which then follow the genetic instructions to make tiny pieces that look like a part of the coronavirus. Those little proteins stimulate an immune response, generating antibodies and immune cells that “remember” what they look like and that will be ready to respond quickly in case of a fresh attack.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses viral vector technology. A common cold virus called adenovirus 26 is genetically engineered so that it can infect cells, but it won’t replicate there. It cannot spread in the body, and won’t give people a cold. Like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it delivers genetic instructions.

The J&J vaccine has shown efficacy of 72% in the US and offered 86% protection against severe forms of the disease in the country. Moderna’s and Pfizer efficacy rate in clinical trials was 94% to 95%.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, urged Americans to take any of the three “highly efficacious” coronavirus vaccines now available to them and not delay by seeking one vaccine over another. “If I were not vaccinated now and I had a choice of getting a J&J vaccine now or waiting for another vaccine, I would take whatever vaccine would be available to me as quickly as possible,” he told CNN.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: J&J’s vaccine has lower efficacy than Moderna and Pfizer. Is it a second-class vaccine?
A: In short: No. Experts agree that all the vaccines provide very good protection by the most important measure, which is whether they keep people from getting seriously ill.

It is true that in trials, the overall global efficacy of the J&J vaccine was 66% against moderate to severe illness and 85% against severe disease. In the US, the vaccine showed efficacy of 72%. Meanwhile, Pfizer and Moderna had efficacy rates of 94% to 95%.

But experts say these numbers can be misleading. The three vaccines have not been compared head to head, so it would be impossible to know if one is better than the other. The trials were different too. Pfizer’s vaccine was tested in 43,000 people in the US, Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina. Moderna’s was tested in 30,000 people, all of them in the US.

Meanwhile, the J&J vaccine was tested in 44,000 people in the US, South Africa and Latin America, and most of the testing was months later in the pandemic than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That meant the vaccine was tested at a time when there were more variants in circulation. Tested in South Africa and in Brazil, an FDA analysis found that the majority of the Covid-19 cases in the J&J trials were due to variants that are thought to be more contagious.
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

The people paying a heavy price for telling the truth about Covid in China

Chen Mei was detained in China last April and charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after sharing articles about the coronavirus on a crowd-sourced repository on GitHub.

He is among a number of truthtellers the Chinese government has allegedly tried to silence for sharing information that diverges from the official narrative, information that activists allege Beijing wants wiped from the collective consciousness.

Some were doctors who tried to warn of a deadly new virus in Wuhan, or citizen journalists who documented hospitals stretched to breaking point with bodies piled outside. Others, like Chen Mei, tried to preserve evidence of the unfolding crisis online, even in the face of widespread censorship. Julia Hollingsworth and Yong Xiong report.

Everything old is new again: Repurposing drugs to treat Covid-19

Developing, testing and then getting approval for new medication takes a lot of time — time the world doesn’t have when fighting a deadly new virus. A possible shortcut is to find treatments that are already around which might also be effective against Covid-19.

There are several approaches to make the match between a disease and a potential treatment. They include translational research, which involves finding out what goes wrong on the cellular level with a given disease and seeing if there is an existing drug that fixes the problem. There’s also high throughput drug screening, which is basically testing different drugs in a petri dish with patients’ cells and seeing what happens. Artificial intelligence can also be used to find previously unknown connections between disease processes and medications.

How one country slipped into a Covid disaster, one misstep at a time

While much of the world is starting to think about lifting their coronavirus restrictions, the Czech Republic has today entered a strict new lockdown. The Central European nation of 10 million has been experiencing near record levels of new infections and its death toll has just topped 20,000. Here’s what went wrong in a country that sailed through the pandemic’s first wave nearly unscathed.

ON OUR RADAR

  • The US House passed their version of the Covid-19 stimulus bill, a key part of President Biden’s agenda to combat the pandemic’s economic impacts. It now moves to the Senate.
  • Canada is set to receive 6.5 million Covid-19 vaccines by the end of March.
  • Japan only started inoculating its population of 126 million people last week, more than two months after the vaccine rolled out in other major countries. Here’s why.
  • Covid-19 vaccines were allegedly stolen, expired and inappropriately administered in a Tennessee county, a state investigation has found.
  • The US Supreme Court has once again sided with houses of worship in dispute over Covid restrictions.
  • “Saturday Night Live” opened with Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Anthony Fauci hosting a new game show called “So You Think You Can Get The Vaccine.”

TOP TIP

It’s a simple enough concept. People cough, sneeze or simply breathe out particles constantly. If a person is infected with any virus — including a coronavirus — viral particles can be carried out on droplets that can become suspended in the air. In a closed room — such as classroom — those particles will build up and others will breathe them in.

The solution can also be simple — air exchange. Swap the particle-laden air for fresh, clean air, and the risk of transmission falls. That’s why the CDC posted new recommendations on the importance of good ventilation in preventing coronavirus spread in schools and daycares. Its top recommendation: Open a window.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“I think the narrative about herd immunity keeps cropping up again because it would be nice if Covid-19’s gone forever. But, of course, if we can reduce death and suffering by 95%, then that’s way more important than herd immunity.” — Dr. Christopher Murray, IHME

What will it take to achieve herd immunity? CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks with Dr. Christopher Murray, who directs the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, about the role of vaccinations, variants and preventative behavior. Listen now.



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