Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 Vaccine Draws Mixed Reactions as it Registers 66% Efficacy
On January 29th, Johnson & Johnson announced results from the Phase 3 clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Results show the vaccine is 85% effective at preventing severe disease. It protects against multiple variants, including the South African variant. Additionally, the vaccine offers significant advantages over currently approved vaccines, as it doesn’t require ultra-cold storage and it requires a single shot. Yet, the stocks of J&J fell by more than 3.5%.
Over 101 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 worldwide and over 2.2 million people have died since the pandemic began. One way to stop the pandemic is by vaccinating enough people to reach “herd immunity”. This is the point when enough people are immune against the virus, which stops or slows down its transmission.
In December 2020, two vaccines were approved for emergency use in the US. However, as of January 27th, only 3.8 people in the US have been fully vaccinated. This is partly because all approved vaccines require two doses, and one of them, the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine requires ultra-low temperature storage, which complicates distribution. Vaccines that require a single dose, and don’t require specialized equipment are necessary to accomplish a global vaccination effort.
The efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was determined on the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 3 clinical ENSEMBLE trial. The trial enrolled almost 44,000 people across the US, Latin America, and South Africa. The results reported were collected 28 days after administration. Key results are as follows:
- The vaccine was 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and 85% effective at preventing severe disease.
- No patient that received the vaccine was hospitalized or died from COVID-19 on day 28th. This could suggest the vaccine is 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
- The vaccine was protective against the South African strain of COVID-19, which has been shown to be more contagious, and current antibody treatments are less effective against this variant.
Also, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine offers some logistical advantages as it only requires one shot to provide protection, it can be transported and stored in a normal fridge (4˚C) for at least three months.
“These topline results with a single-shot COVID-19 vaccine candidate represent a promising moment. The potential to significantly reduce the burden of severe disease, by providing an effective and well-tolerated vaccine with just one immunization, is a critical component of the global public health response,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson.
“A one-shot vaccine is considered by the World Health Organization to be the best option in pandemic settings, enhancing access, distribution, and compliance. Eighty-five percent efficacy in preventing severe COVID-19 disease and prevention of COVID-19-related medical interventions will potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from serious and fatal outcomes of COVID-19. It also offers the hope of helping ease the huge burden placed on healthcare systems and communities.”
Even, when the vaccine is promising and offers several advantages over its competitor, Johnson & Johnson’s stock price fell by more than 3.5%. One explanation is that other vaccines in the market are over 90% effective, and the fact that Johnson & Johnson will not profit from their vaccine. They pledge to sell on a not-for-profit basis.
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