VAX: J&J reports 66% effectiveness … good news or bad news?

Here are my takeaways, drawing largely from the WSJ analysis of J&J’s press release.
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> Overall, J&J’s vaccine was 66% effective against moderate or severe symptoms … and “appeared to be generally safe and well tolerated”

Note: The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots were more than 94% effective in late-stage testing.

But, the competitive brands’ results may not be directly comparable.

J&J’s trial occurred as at least one variant (i.e. the South African strain) that appears to have some impact on vaccine efficacy was circulating, while the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech trials were completed before variants of concern started transmitting widely. Source

> The vax was 72% effective in the US … lower in Latin America (66%) and South Africa (57%).

Note: The lower effectiveness in South Africa is a red flag re: effectiveness against mutating strains of the virus and probably distorts the comparisons against Pfizer & Moderna

> When considering only severe cases, J&J said its vaccine was 85% effective across all regions studied. 

Note: The J&J study tracked moderate and severe cases of Covid-19, defined as testing positive for the virus and having certain symptoms including shortness of breath, cough, fever or respiratory failure.

> The J&J vaccine prevented 100% of hospitalizations and deaths — all hospitalizations and deaths in the study group occurred among people who got the placebo. Bloomberg

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> Good news: the J&J vaccine is a single dose and only requires refrigeration, not sub-zero freezer storage, making broad-scale distribution more practical.

> More good news: The J&J vax is already in high volume production, awaiting regulatory approval.

> Bad news: Regulatory approval isn’t expected until the end of February.

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> J&J reminder:

“It’s a pandemic vaccine preventing death and hospitalization and severe disease in an acute situation, now in the middle of a pandemic.”

> WSJ conclusion:

Even though it wasn’t as effective as the (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines, J&J’s vaccine performance would be strong enough to protect many people and help build the community immunity.

> My take:

Disappointed that effectiveness rate isn’t higher.  If it were, brand choice would be a no-brainer (save for potential longer-run health consequences — which haven’t been evaluated for any of the vaccines) 

Keeping things in perspective, 72% effectiveness in the U.S. is greater than zero … greater than most vaccines that have ever been deployed for other infections… and, roughly the same as the first-dose-only effectiveness of the  Moderna vaccineSource

And, keeping an eye on the goal line, J&J’s vaccine was 100% preventative of hospitalization and deaths. 

So, barring any  differentiating long-term health consequences that could be significant (and haven’t been studied yet for any of the vaccines), I plan to take the first vax that I can get my hands on.

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical person or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor! 

2 Responses to “VAX: J&J reports 66% effectiveness … good news or bad news?”

  1. Dr. David C. Page Says:

    J & J vaccine per Bloomberg: “And it was particularly effective at stopping severe disease, preventing 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths.”

    The non-mRNA J & J vaccine may be worth the wait.

  2. Jim Muzzall Says:

    Thought Angela Rasmussen had a good thread on this. (https://twitter.com/angie_rasmussen/status/1355152151094259712?s=20). If you’re thinking from bigger picture, the 100% reduction in hospitalizations and death is huge for removing bottlenecks in the hospital systems for bed space. I could see strategy of J&J vaccine for less vulnerable (e.g. 1c or 2) populations to alleviate bed demand, and then follow up with mRNA vaccines later as they come available.

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