The world is poised to get another weapon in the fast-changing battle against COVID. Results from yet another long-awaited vaccine contender are in. Johnson & Johnson's takeaway numbers: Overall, the vaccine is 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe illnesses, and 85% effective at preventing severe cases alone, reports the AP. But in a now-familiar caveat, the vaccine was less effective—57%—in South Africa, where a worrisome new variant was first detected. In the US specifically, the vaccine proved 72% effective, per the Washington Post. The overall numbers fall short of those for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines already in use, but 66% is still above the threshold set by the FDA for a vaccine to be deemed useful, notes STAT News. Plus, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a big advantage: It requires only one dose.
"In a pandemic, if you can, with a single-dose vaccine, very quickly eliminate the severe consequences of death, hospitalization, and severe disease, that's what’s important for society," the company's chief scientific officer, Paul Stoffels, tells STAT. If no surprises turn up in the ensuing review path, the vaccine could be on the market in late February or early March, notes the Post. Its entry, along with another new candidate from Novavax, will add to the calculus health authorities will have to navigate in getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. As the AP notes, these one-dose shots may be less effective, but they could ease the global crunch on vaccine supplies. On top of all that, drug-makers are scrambling to create booster shots tailored to the South African variant and may have to develop others on the fly as well. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)