WASHINGTON (AP/WAVY) — The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two.
Health experts are anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations, as they race against a virus that already has killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly worrisome ways.
The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death.
One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.
“The more vaccines that have high efficacy that we can get into play, the better,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said ahead of the FDA’s ruling.
Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.
Virginia is on the list to receive shipments as early as next week.
“Good news — a third shot of hope in our fight against COVID-19. Virginia expects to receive approximately 69,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week,” Governor Ralph Northam tweeted Saturday.
J&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. Worldwide, the company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year. On Thursday, the island nation of Bahrain became the first to clear its use.
President Joe Biden released a statement on the emergency use authorization of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine:
Today, after a rigorous, open, and objective scientific review process, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for a third safe and effective vaccine to help us defeat the COVID-19 pandemic — the Janssen COVID-19 (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine.
This is exciting news for all Americans, and an encouraging development in our efforts to bring an end to the crisis. We know that the more people get vaccinated, the faster we will overcome the virus, get back to our friends and loved ones, and get our economy back on track.
Thanks to the brilliance of our scientists, the resilience of our people, and the eagerness of Americans in every community to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated, we are moving in the right direction. I look forward to speaking more about today’s news and updating the American people on our progress this coming week. But I want to be clear: this fight is far from over.
Though we celebrate today’s news, I urge all Americans — keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing masks. As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse.
My Administration will not make the mistake of taking this threat lightly, or just assuming the best: that’s why we need the American Rescue Plan to keep this fight going in the months ahead. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable.
We must continue to remain vigilant, act fast and aggressively, and look out for one another — that is how we are going to reach that light together.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.