Johnson and Johnson is initially shipping out 4 million doses nationwide of the single-shot vaccine. It is 8 million less than the company originally anticipated, but Johnson & Johnson plans to ramp up production by the end of March.
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"Then it will be on this path to do 100 million by June of this year, and remember that's all en route to doing almost a billion doses over the course of 2021," said Alex Gorsky, CEO, Johnson & Johnson.
"The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a welcome tool to our list of vaccines," said Dr. Stephen Schrantz, who was part of the team that led a J&J vaccine trial at University of Chicago Medicine.
More than half of U of C's participants were people of color. Many view the J&J vaccine as key to closing the equity gap, in part because it only needs standard refrigeration. That makes it easier to use in pop-up vaccination sites where pharmacies and other providers may be sparse.
"We're going to be able to roll this vaccine out into these areas that, as you said, are pharmacy deserts," Schrantz said.
This week, the federal government is shipping more than 20,000 J&J doses to Chicago and another 83,000 to the state for a total of more than 105,000 - boosting this week's federal vaccine first-dose deliveries here by nearly 40%.
"We do expect it here this week, and obviously we will put it to work as soon as we get it," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
While the city of Chicago and the state have not released their distribution plans for the J&J vaccine, medical ethicists said the vaccine should be used to close geographical and racial disparity gaps.
"Johnson and Johnson is the key to help accomplish that and close the equity gap across the city," said Dr. William Parker, a medical ethicists and pulmonary critical care specialist at UChicago Medicine.
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While the vaccine showed a 72% efficacy rate in the United States, lower than the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Dr. Parker said what really matters is how successful the vaccine is against severe disease.
"What I care about as an ICU doctor is whether or not people die or get severely ill or become hospitalized with COVID," Dr. Parker said. "We know Johnson & Johnson is 100% effective against that."
Dr. Parker said the other big advantage of the J & J vaccine is it was tested against some of the new variants, while the Pfizer and Moderna trials preceded the variants.
Even though there are now three vaccines in the market, demand is much bigger than supply, so, experts say it will be several months before people have a choice on which vaccine to get. Medical experts encourage people to take whatever vaccine is available because all three are very effective against hospitalizations and death.